(Greenville, MS) The best way to describe what’s going on in Greenville, MS is to think about an accident on the interstate, and the backup it causes.
Tows here are cued up along the riverbank, waiting to get through a river that’s drying up to the point of being dangerous for passage.
With traffic stopped on the Mississippi at Greenville, towboats are tying up wherever they canm to wait as dredges try to re-open shallow channels.
”Right now, there are limited restrictions that are allowing a boat or two at a time to go through and it’s moving, it’s just moving very slowly” said Greenville Port Director Tommy Hart.
Every six to eight hours, a tow will reportedly run aground, and a barge will break free, forcing another closure of the river.
Right now, there’s just not enough water here to get traffic moving.
”We need about ten to twelve feed of water to get back to our normal stage,” said Barry Alderman of Mississippi Marine.
He says the river is only six to eight feet deep in some areas and that means trouble for anyone trying to move goods up and down river.
It also means added expense and extra time to get goods where they’re going.
The low river is threatening the economy of the entire Mississippi delta where farms have had a fairly good year, but where the low river has barges loaded with grain stacked up by the dozens.
It means farmers here can’t move their crops to market, and that will cost all of us
”Transportation costs will increase about twenty-five percent due to light loading of barges” said Hart.
Meaning, they’re not loaded as full, meaning more barges, and more trips.
At Mississippi Marine, it could eventually mean jobs too, ”Will end up probably laying off a bunch of people and slow it down,” said Alderman.
Greenville’s Port Director says there aren’t many solutions, ”A lot of money and a little more time and pray for rain.”
Hart says every year, he heads to Washington to beg for money to maintain the river channel.
He says regular funding for river maintenance could keep this from happening and keep commerce flowing up and downstream.