An 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River has been closed due to low water levels amid the nation’s worst drought in more than 50 years.
The US Coast Guard has said that 97 boats are now awaiting passage along the closed stretch of the Mississippi, which has been closed intermittently since a vessel ran aground on August 11, according to MSNBC.
Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets also said that the 11-mile stretch is being surveyed for dredging and that a Coast Guard boat is also replacing eight navigation markers in the area. Meanwhile, 40 northbound and 57 southbound vessels are stranded and waiting for passage through the area.
Fox News notes that Tippets said they have no date to re-open the 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near Greenville, Mississippi, which was also closed in 1988 because of low water levels from a severe drought.
The Mississippi River has seen water levels plummet from Illinois to Louisiana because of drought conditions for the past three months. In the Memphis area, the water was 12 feet lower than normal for this time of year.
Thousands of tons of material are shipped on the Mississippi River each day, so maintaining the navigation is essential to the commerce of the US. The Army Corps of Engineers is using dredges to dig out sand, ensuring that the navigation channel near Greenville is deep enough for barges that have been loaded with coal, steel, agricultural products, and other goods to pass through safely.
The lower Mississippi River requires a minimum navigation channel of 9 feet deep by 300 feet wide in order to safely pass barges through.