Low levels on the Mississippi threatening cargo business - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Low levels on the Mississippi threatening cargo business, drinking water

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The National Weather Service expects the water levels to continue to drop. The National Weather Service expects the water levels to continue to drop.

Boats are having a tough time making it down the "Mighty Mississippi," as the river's water levels drop to historic lows.

It's bad for business, since the river is one of the country's most important waterways for shipping cargo.

Right now, sending goods down the river is moving at a snail's pace. The low water levels are causing many boats to get stuck, even in the middle of the river. It's forcing some barges to stop travel all together and others to significantly reduce their weight.

Even the famous "American Queen" steamboat can't make it down the river. Just a few days ago it got stuck near Memphis, forcing all 300 passengers off the boat.

With less boats and less goods making it down the river, it's driving up the cost of shipping and creating longer waits for products at grocery stores across the country.

Some say the river could be on the brink of closing down. If it does, that would cost the U.S. about $300 million a day.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency for Plaquemines Parish, near New Orleans. A large wedge of salt water is moving up the river because of the extremely low water levels, and it's threatening the area's drinking water.

Plaquemines Parish issued a drinking water advisory Wednesday to its residents. Several agencies are providing water to people in the area, while the U.S. Army Corps is working to stop the salt.

They temporarily shut down the river to all traffic Wednesday while they build an underwater barrier.

But the low water levels aren't bad for everyone; fishermen are welcoming it.

They said it makes fishing easy, as area lakes connected to channels of the river dry up, the catfish get stuck. After last year's flood, the lakes are chalk full of fish.

The National Weather Service expects the water levels to continue to drop.

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