Barge lines on the Mississippi expect a waiting game

Continued drought along the Mississippi River is creating problems for barge lines and the goods they ship.

Feels strange to talk about drought when many of us have been carrying umbrellas and even shoveling snow the past week. But the drought in the Midwest is still wreaking havoc on folks who ship goods up and down the Mississippi. The river's at near record-low levels right now, and barge owners say their businesses are at risk if the river gets much lower.

We talked to Austin Golding in Vicksburg, Miss., last month about the low river levels. He co-owns Golding Barge Lines with his family. They ship petroleum products up and down the Mississippi River.

Since then, the river's had some rain but not enough to make much of a difference. The low levels means barge traffic -- carrying a wide variety of products, from agriculture to coal -- has slowed.

Efforts are underway to blast away rock in some parts of the river in an attempt to make it deeper.

Golding says "unless we get some more rain or this blasting process alleviates it, we won't see any relief any time soon."

He says his family has had to put less product on their barges for now and that makes it more expensive to ship products. The higher cost will eventually trickle down to the prices consumers pay as well.

For now, Golding says, they're just waiting.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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