The name Mississippi comes from an American Indian word meaning "big river" or "father of waters." The waterway is one of the most important and longest rivers in the country. It travels some 2,350 miles through 10 states. The river reaches 200 feet at its deepest point. But because of drought conditions, water levels on the mighty river have fallen to at least 10 feet below normal. The low levels threatened to halt traffic on the Mississippi. On January 14, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard completed a six-month project to keep the river open for boats and barges.
Barges carry everything from grain, corn and soybeans to oil, coal and steel down the river. Some of these goods are then sold to other countries. Shutting down portions of the river would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.
KEEPING THE MIGHTY RIVER RUNNING
The shallowest parts of the river are in the 180-mile stretch between St. Louis, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois. It is there that workers have been removing rocks and sand to make the river deeper and filling it with water from nearby reservoirs and lakes. Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Army Corps, says they have added two feet of depth to the river, making it possible for barges to continue to get through.
Recent wet weather has helped boost water levels. "We are thankful for the rain, and we look forward to more," Anderson told TFK. "Also, we believe the snow in Iowa and Minnesota will melt over the next few weeks. We are cautiously optimistic that the river will remain open until the spring rains begin."
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