The Port of New Orleans is keeping a close eye on Mississippi River drought conditions to the north. So far, the port is conducting business as usual.
The Mississippi River is at historic lows. Barges are carrying much less bulk cargo — including grain — to stay afloat. But Port of New Orleans President Gary LaGrange says operations haven’t changed much here. Container ships, cruises and general cargo are moving along as usual, and he’s optimistic that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will be successful in clearing away rocks from the river bottom near St. Louis.
“With the implementation over the next 25 days — now that they started five or six days ago opening the waters up for flow — we think that we’ll probably be okay within 20 to 25 days," LaGrange said. "Projections show that the worst period might be on December 26. Well, in many instances, there’s not a lot of cargo and traffic moving on that day anyway because it’s the tail end of Christmas.”
LaGrange says he understands that political pressure is mounting to increase the flow of Missouri River water into the Mississippi. But he says that’s a matter for engineers.
“At the end of the day you may let too much water into the Mississippi River, which right now doesn’t seem likely. But at the end of the day you still need that water supply for all of your cities upriver on the Missouri and the Mississippi come spring and the early months of the winter as well,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange says the port and its route to the Gulf of Mexico took a harder hit last year when there was a high river, since channels filled with sediment. The Corps of Engineers is now projecting that the drought will not cause a “significant interruption in navigation.”