River

The Mississippi River on Thursday was at 5.67 feet, just .57 feet above average, creating little concern for usage and transportation for river officials in the Gateway area.

CLINTON — Despite an extremely dry month of July and most of August, the Gateway area is bouncing back after Thursday brought a healthy dose of rain.

One area that didn’t see too much loss during the nearly two-month drought, though, was the Mississippi River.

At the beginning of July, the river sat 11 feet higher than Thursday’s reading of 5.67, which Jon Nania, a hydrologist at the USGS Iowa Water Science Center, said was a normal rate of decrease.

“Rivers have come down quite a bit from those flood events (in June),” Nania said. “The rivers are at least at the average stream levels for this time of year. They have come down at a good, steady pace.”

Though it isn’t projected that the Mississippi will drop to a concerning level, near about 4 feet, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ron Fournier said the Rock Island, Illinois, office always keeps a close eye on the levels this time of year.

That is especially true when the river experiences multiple flooding events early in the season, which was the case this year.

“After the flooding that’s when the bottom shifts, sediment gets moved around and sometimes tow boats will scrape the bottom,” Fournier said. “We haven’t had any real problem with that. Up north (St. Paul, Minnesota district) they have, they’ve had some river shutdowns. We were mostly concerned right after the flood, now it’s been quite some time so we’re not really too concerned at all.”

In addition to that, Thursday’s rain in the Gateway area and in the northern states has river experts feeling even more confident that the Mississippi will continue to remain at normal levels.

Last year, lack of rain and continuously high temperatures created a little concern for the river’s transportation and shipping capabilities when it reached 4.6 feet, but even then Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, Illinois didn’t face the risk of a shut-down.

When it reaches levels that low, assistant lockmaster James Mears said the Lock and Dam’s responsibilities rarely change.

The river would have to drop down to lower than 3 feet before Mears and the crew at Lock and Dam 13 would face any serious issues, something he has never seen in his 10 years at the facility.

“Normally it doesn’t get down that low. It would have to drop another 3 feet before it hit critical stages,” Mears said. “Last time it happened was in 1988. That year it was like 104 degrees for about a week or so, with little to no rain. Right now its fine. If it drops a couple feet then the towing industry would have to lighten their loads but that’s about it.”

The only thing Fournier said would cause any worry with the river at this level and even a little bit lower is the pleasure boating traffic.

When the water lowers, it can create the exposure of wing dams throughout the river. Without knowledge of where these wing dams are located, some boaters run the risk of hitting them.

“This is typical this time of the summer. With not a lot of rain, it gets to be quite dry out there,” Fournier said. “The only thing you have to worry about is inexperienced boaters hitting the wing dams. Most of the people with big boats know where those are at.”

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be reached at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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