Barge lines not fazed by high waters on the Mississippi River

A barge moves along the flooded Mississippi River after barge traffic was allowed to resume on May 18, 2011 in Natchez, Miss.

The high waters on the Mississippi River this week were a rapid shift from last year when the water levels were at record lows, especially for barge operators like Austin Golding of Golding Barge Lines in Vicksburg, Mississippi, who relies on the river to transport goods.

Operators worried the river would be closed when there were lows — something they’re not worried about as the river floods. That doesn't mean it’s not still dangerous.

“The most perilous part of high water is avoiding manmade structures,” Golding says. “The current is much swifter, it just requires more attention, but it is a working environment we are not alien to.”

Others in the industry are also paying close attention to the weather.

“You see a lot of people keeping an eye out the window," he says. "We just had a flood, we just had a drought, and here comes the high water again.”

Golding runs petroleum on his barges. He says delays caused by the swiftly changing Mississippi River levels probably won’t change the price at the pump. The barges go faster when they’re southbound but he’s burning more fuel going north. 

“It’s pretty eerie how everything tends to work out here as far as water levels go,” he says.

The weather fluctuations have made planning for his business more difficult, ut Golding stays positive. 

He says the last few years have made him and his fellow barge line operations “a more experienced industry as a whole.”

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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