Ice delays barge traffic

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The ice isn’t just causing slick streets, it’s also causing barges to stay off the Mississippi River. All is quiet along the Mississippi River, because the ice is delaying barge traffic. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said ice is an issue every year, but it’s just sticking around a little longer.

“We all know from every season, whether it’s high water or low water or ice conditions, that we don’t have much control over the weather, ” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Channel Maintenance Coordinator Dan Cottrell.

All of the ice is causing headaches for businesses like Brennan Marine in La Crosse. The operations manager said it impacts scheduling, forcing some employees to start work later.

“Incredibly frustrating, we’ve got all of our crews are ready to get back to work and we’re excited to start the season and we just have to wait for the ice to move on down river,” said Adam Binsfeld.

However, Binsfeld said it’s too soon to tell if the delay will have any economic impact.

“Now the ice delay we’re looking at is 2-3 weeks, which this industry could make up for, but if we were to see a lock and dam failure and have extended delays, it would be significant impacts on consumers,” said Binsfeld.

Cottrell said right now the ice is 20 to 24 inches thick along Lake Pepin, depending on the location. It’s measured there, because that’s where the ice is the thickest. As for a safe thickness to travel? That depends on the barge and the barge company.

“They usually like it closer to 12 or 15 inches, but it really depends on how important it is for them to get their products up to St. Paul. It also depends on how strong they’re barges are and what they’re willing to sacrifice to do that,” said Cottrell.

The Army Corps of Engineers will measure the ice again on March 27th.

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