Another difficulty in a season of near-record low river levels
Barge traffic on the Lower Mississippi River (LMR) has been slowed to a crawl. Blockages at mile 525 (LMR) and at mile 545 (LMR) have limited southbound and northbound barge movement. Three Terral fleet boats are caught in the impasse, delaying scheduled rock and coal deliveries.
This problem is one of many our company has faced this season due to low water conditions on the Mississippi. The river is 57 feet lower than this time last year. For three weeks our operations at Lake Providence Port have been completely halted as we await a dredge-dug path to the docks. This location will likely be out of operation another two weeks.
This comes at harvest time for area grain farmers, when grain elevators must be loaded. We typically service four grain elevator companies through the Lake Providence Port, and, with this port closed, we have been forced to make major adjustments. At the Madison Parish Port, near Tallulah, Louisiana, we have access to the river on a limited basis for loading and unloading barges. Three of our grain elevator customers are currently sharing time on this dock to load barges, and we are unloading barges across the riverbank to accommodate inbound product such as fertilizer and rock. Terral personnel are working 24 hours a day to keep our customers served despite these limitations.
In the last two years, the LMR has experienced its highest river in history and now close to its lowest river in history. As a result of the high water, excessive deposits of sand and silt found their way downriver, where they settled in the mouths of our ports and along the main shipping channel of the river. This has resulted in a much more severe low-water condition. The Army Corps of Engineers is working hard to keep access to the river open.
Terral is using all of its resources to cope with the harsh and unusual river conditions. Our towboat, port and management personnel are working hard to provide continual service. We have had barges stuck on sandbars, boats with wheels and rudders and hulls damaged, and many delays. We hope our customers trust our efforts to work through these adversities, and we appreciate their patience in these trying times.