ST. PAUL, Minn.— Federal officials hope a massive effort to remove silt and sand deposits from the bed of the Mississippi River in Minnesota will have cleared a path for hundreds of tied-up barges carrying millions of dollars in cargo to resume their trips downstream over the weekend.
Commercial barge traffic has been choked off for weeks by large sediment deposits in the Mississippi left behind by flooding from heavy spring and summer showers. Combined with a late thaw, it’s been “a perfect storm for the industry,” delaying shipments up and down one of the nation’s most important waterways, said Steve Tapp of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is leading the cleanup.
The corps brought in four dredges to churn up enormous deposits near the southern Minnesota towns of Winona and Wabasha, suck them up and spit them onto boats to be carried to shore. With those areas clear, the four dredges and two additional crews will fan out to other sand-clogged stretches of the river to ease barges’ passage.
The delays have stretched dangerously close to grain harvesting season, when barges need to carry wheat, soybeans and corn from throughout the Midwest down to the Gulf Coast for export.