Below the confluence with the Ohio River, the problems are still not solved. While the Mississippi river is wider and carries more water, the depth of the water is still more shallow than normal and the Memphis District of the Corps of Engineers is also engaged in dredging. At a major barge loading point at Helena, AR, the water level has dropped 15 feet over the month of September, and the depth is at the critical point for depth restrictions on barges.
The problem stems from the lack of rain fall in the second half of the summer. According to the Midwest Regional Climate Center, the abundant rain that occurred April through June (top) suddenly halted in July and the remainder of the summer (bottom) has been four to 6 inches less than normal for most of the Mississippi River watershed.
Water levels on the Mississippi River have been at perilously low levels due to the lack of rainfall in the watershed since the middle of the summer. Locks and dams have maintained minimum levels of water as best they can, but without water, barge traffic will be restricted. Reduced drafts on barge tows will allow grain to move from the Cornbelt to the Gulf, but with fewer bushels loaded, costs will increase and grain prices will reflect the wider basis.