Mississippi River Drops, Threatening Barge Traffic

FILE - In this June 13, 2012 file photo Bich Nguyen catches a smallmouth bass at Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River near Yankton, S.D. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, which in the past have brought suits to reduce water being released from dams to boost recreation, are once again battling battling downstream states facing a severe drought and low water levels that threaten commercial traffic along a 180-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. (AP Photo/Argus Leader, Jay Pickthorn, File) NO SALES

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By Liz Blood

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Mississippi River's water level is dropping again and barge industry trade groups warn that river commerce could essentially come to a halt as early as next week in an area south of St. Louis.

The Coast Guard remains confident that the nation's largest waterway will remain open despite the worst drought in decades. But officials with the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc. said Thursday that even if the river is open, further limits on barges will halt commercial traffic.

Mike Petersen, of the Army Corps of Engineers, says ice on the northern Mississippi River is reducing the flow more than expected. The river level is now expected to get to 3 feet at Thebes, Ill., on Jan. 6, when new limits on barges could go into place.

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