Drought not over for those on the Mississippi River

A buoy used to help guide barges rests on the bank after the water level dropped on the Mississippi River July 18, 2012 near Wyatt, Mo. Some barge operators lightened their loads or stopped running altogether on the lower Mississippi because of low water levels.

You probably remember the drought from this summer. It baked the Midwest and badly damaged the crops of farmers across the country. But if you thought we were done with all that, think again.

Now the Mississippi River is feeling the effect of scarce rainfall. And that's making it harder to transport goods up and down the river.

Austin Golding is a third-generation co-owner of Golding Barge Line, a barge transportation company in Vicksburg, Miss. The company was started in the 1960s by Golding's grandfather. He says things are bad now, but could soon get much worse.

"We're reaching is a stage where if we don't get any rain in a matter of weeks... the upper Mississippi River will have to be shut down because there's not a navigable channel," says Golding. "So I'd say we're reaching critical stage at this point."

Golding's company ships refined petroleum products like gasoline, but shipping companies use the Mississippi river to transport a wide range of goods including agricultural commodities. He's hoping the Army Corp of Engineers will release water held up in dams further upstream.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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