Low river levels hurt local business

Monday, July 23, 2012 - 3:30pm

 Verging on historic lows, was the phrase used by an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman when describing current water levels of the Mississippi River. The low levels are now affecting river traffic, and commerce.

"It's having a tremendous impact on industry," said Z. David DeLoach, owner of DeLoach Marine Services.

The river still serves as a super-highway for midwest farmers looking to get their goods to market. But the midwest drought is causing the low water levels down river, and threatening to bring barge traffic to a halt.

"If you shut the river down, it's a tremendous disadvantage when we sell agricultural products on the world market," DeLoach said.

With a fleet of 11 barges and over 100 employees, DeLoach is watching the water levels daily. He's already dealing with a 50-percent reduction in capacity because of where the levels are now.

"Typically moving 35-40 barges when towing," DeLoach said. "Only 25-30 barges now."

The Army Corps said river traffic for large ships between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is safe from the low levels and remains at 45 feet. But the concern for DeLoach, is what will be loaded on the ships if traffic upriver is stopped, due to low water.

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