River

The St. Joseph portion of the Missouri River has seen low levels that cause a concern.

Local officials are expressing concern about the current level of water on the Missouri River at St. Joseph.

A letter from the Buchanan County commissioners to Missouri Republican Rep. Sam Graves, R-Missouri, raises worries about the river’s low level, which currently is just above three feet currently.

“The Missouri River levels should not fluctuate so drastic month after month and year after year,” the letter said.

Shipments through the St. Joseph Port Authority have been grounded since early fall and the local lakes that are fed by the Missouri River levels have less than two and a half feet of water in most areas.

Graves’ spokesperson told News-Press NOW that the representative has been clear that flood control and navigation must be the priority on the Missouri River, and he is still gathering information regarding the commissioners’ letter.

The St. Joseph Port Authority needs a minimum of seven feet of water to be in the river for barges to get through. Richard Deshon, port authority chairperson, said he realizes water flow management by the Army Corps of Engineers is complicated, but he believes transportation of goods should be a top priority.

“This is an issue that’s been going on for a number of years,” Deshon said. “Hopefully this year they will keep the depth at nine feet, so we can unload barges.”

Deshon said the port is aggressive on getting barges through, and several clients have plans to transport wind turbine wings along the river.

Deshon said the river has been flooded in the past due to the rush of water and snowfall, and that the Corps of Engineers has actually flooded the river on purpose a number of times.

“The river will flood again, sometime, and they don’t necessarily have control over that entirely. What they have control over is the amount of water that is released into the river,” he said. “If we have heavy rains up north we could have the Missouri River flood just by the rivers running into it.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwestern Division said in a news release that, “The entire flood control capacity of the Mainstem System is available to capture and manage the 2021 runoff, reducing flood risk while providing support to other authorized project purposes.”

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.