So far, commerce on the Mississippi continues, albeit at a slower pace than usual. Credit for keeping the channels open at all belongs to the stakeholders for getting Congressional involvement, Congress and the President for pushing action, and the Army Corps of Engineers for working rapidly after receiving a Presidential go-ahead.
Still, only rain will really solve the problem of a historically low Mississippi River.
The Army Corps of Engineers has guaranteed only a nine foot draft (nine feet of water in which to move materials) so the shipping industry has begun loading barges to an eight food draft last month. The tow boats are another problem, as most require a nine foot draft to operate and the Army Corps of Engineers requires an additional foot of clearance. Since the Mississippi cannot accommodate a ten food draft, older towboats that are less powerful and less available have been brought in. The older boats require only a seven food draft, but also can push less, further backing up river commerce.
The near future looks sketchy. The Army Corps has eliminated the rock formations and maintained a channel. They also continue to dredge and create the deepest channel they can. For that, the shipping industry and the agricultural industry is grateful. At least we have some, although limited, commerce traveling up and down the river.
But until the drought is really over, this problem of historically low water remains a problem.
Watch this clip from NBC News to see live footage of the problems on the Mighty Mississippi.