News / USA

US Army Corps of Engineers Works to Avert Crisis on Mississippi River

Kane Farabaugh
Since July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working around the clock to keep the Mississippi River open to barge traffic crucial to the U.S. economy. The Corps is racing against time -- digging out shallow spots as the Mississippi River recedes toward historically low levels.

It is a familiar routine for the crew members of the Dredge Potter, making their way along the Mississippi River to the growing number of shallow trouble spots and digging in.

“The Potter has been working since July, and it’s now December,” said Lance Engle, from the Army Corps of Engineers.

That workload is due to the continuing drought in the central United States that has dried up the Mississippi River basin.

Engle says the Potter's three crews are dredging around-the-clock to keep the river open, and they are not being helped by Mother Nature.

“We are dredging priority locations, and just keeping up with the falling river forecast to maintain navigation,” Engle said.

The Potter scoops sediment off the bottom of the river, and transports it through a pipeline system out the other side at a rate of about 280,000 liters per minute.

“It is essentially a suction dredge, where we suck up the sandy river bottom and deposit it outside the river channel,” Engle said.

Marty Hettel’s barges at AEP River Operations use that river channel, which is 100 meters wide and less than three meters deep.  But even that is forcing Hettel’s company to lighten its loads just to make it down the Mississippi.

“We are about 35 percent less efficient at this river stage than we are at normal river conditions,” Hettel said.

Hettel says the work done by dredges like the Potter is helping, but will not solve the problem. “To have any support for the river here, we need a good 10 days to two weeks of steady rainfall, and it’s not predicted.  It’s just not there,” Hettel said.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District Commander Colonel Chris Hall agrees.

 “It will take a significant amount of precipitation to bring those water tables, those aquifers, those systems back up to where we have typical river conditions,” Hall said.

“Droughts tend to continue for several years, so I don’t see this going away anytime soon,” Engle said.

Until it goes away, the work of the Potter is essential to the U.S. economy -- ensuring that the chief river of the nation's largest river system is wide and deep enough to handle the barges that carry hundreds of billions of dollars of goods each year.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs