Mississippi River

The Leonard Lopate Show

Petrochemical America

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Kate Orff, an assistant professor at Columbia University and founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture studio in Manhattan, discusses the causes of sustained environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. The book Petrochemical America combines Richard Misrach's photographs of Louisiana's "Chemical Corridor" with Orff's "Ecological Atlas"—a series of speculative drawings developed through intensive research and mapping of data from the region

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Transportation Nation

Drought Lowers Mississippi, Holding Up Barge Traffic

Friday, December 28, 2012

The confluence of the St. Croix (TOP) and Mississippi Rivers (BOTTOM) is seen from the air on May 31, 2012. (Karen Bleier/AFP-Getty Images)

(Eve Troeh, Marketplace) This year's drought is plaguing more than farmers. The Mississippi River is at its lowest water level in decades, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in emergency mode to keep barge traffic moving.

A stretch of the river from St. Louis, Missouri to Cairo, Illinois is so low right now, jagged bedrock is close to the surface. That could scrape or even puncture the huge barges that silently float the river. Each one normally carries 70 semi trucks worth of very heavy stuff, and they ship in groups 40 or so barges at a time.

Lynn Muench, Senior Vice President of Regional Affairs with American Waterways Operators, a trade group, says barges mostly ship heavy things that would be too expensive to send by rail or truck alone. That includes petroleum products, chemicals, sand, gravel, and salt for the roads this time of year.

One timely load some of these stalled barges are carrying? Fertilizer for spring planting.

She says the fleets of barges have lightened their loads, so they don't sink so deep in the water. For the next several week, barring heavy rain, the boat captains will have to have to line up all day, waiting, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breaks up the rock. They can only pass in the night, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"The price to move everything has almost doubled," says Muench.

She says the Army Corps should've seen this coming and busted up the rocks sooner. Mike Petersen, a corps spokesman in St. Louis, recognizes that the slowdown is annoying, but notes it is the best option, long-term.

"This is something that'll give us a permanent improvement in that stretch," he says.

He expects to finish the work in a few weeks. The drought, he says, could go on for years.

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The Takeaway

Drought Closes Parts of Mississippi River

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Mississippi River is more than 12 feet lower than normal for this time of year. It's so difficult for boats to pass through that crews have shut down an 11-mile stretch to restore the depth. Over 100 ships are in line to pass through. 

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The Takeaway

How 'Great Flood' of 1927 Helped Prepare for Floods of Today

Thursday, May 19, 2011

By all accounts, the Mississippi flood waters threatening communities across the South are reminiscent of the “Great Flood” of 1927. That historic event forever changed how the country’s levees, spillways and flood control systems are built and operate. It allowed for federal and state governments to create a flood preparedness system to make sure we never see a disaster like 1927 again. But despite the best efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard and emergency responders, thousands of people have already lost their homes to the rising flood waters. 

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The Takeaway

Closing the Mississippi River: Safe but Costly

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers continue working around the clock to prevent massive flooding to major cities in the South. But even as they open floodgates and break through levees, the Mississippi River continues to rise. If it rises above 18.5 feet — two feet higher than it was on Saturday — access to parts of the river could be limited or temporarily shut down.


Studio 360

When the Floodgates Open

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mississippi River is overflowing as it hasn't in most of our lifetimes. The situation is being compared to the devastating flood of 1927, which inundated 27,000 square miles. That disaster led to a new era of flood-control construction, including locks, dams, levees, and spillways throughout the waterway. The 1927 flood also inspired a generation of the blues musicians, like Kansas Joe McCoy and...

Bonus Track: Music from the 1927 flood

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The Takeaway

Man vs. Nature Along the Mississippi Delta

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Water is driven to find the shortest and quickest course from source to mouth and the Mississippi River is no exception. The river is fighting against modern engineering as it continues to crest. If it were allowed to flow freely, New Orlean's Atchafalaya River would capture the main flow of the Mississippi. However, thanks to a feat of modern engineering, the great river is forced to follow its current path through Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Some researchers believe the likelihood of major flooding increases each year due to this tension between water and engineering.


The Takeaway

Memphis Residents and Emergency Management Monitor Mississippi

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This morning Tennessee emergency management agencies and Memphis area citizens are closely monitoring the Mississippi River as flood waters reach near record levels. Around 7pm Monday Night, the Mississippi River crested at 48 feet, its highest since the floods of 1927. Experts expect the waters to stay at that level for at least the next 48 hours, with significant water remaining for weeks ahead.


The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Bin Laden, Economy, Floods

Monday, May 09, 2011

A week ago, Osama bin Laden was found and killed by American special forces in Pakistan. A hefty amount of information has been retrieved from the compound, enough information to fill a "small college library," according to Tom Donilon, President Obama's National Security Adviser. A number of videos of Osama bin Laden were released to the public, including one, which shows the late terrorist watching videos of himself on a small television. Callie Crossley, host of "The Callie Crossley Show" on WGBH in Boston, looks at what all this intelligence will tell us about bin Laden, and how this affects the U.S. role in Afghanistan.