Corn Stored at Port Due to Slow Barge Traffic in Southeast Missouri

Photo courtesy of Pemiscot County Port Authority / An estimated amount of 1.1 million bushels of corn was stored on the ground at Pemiscot County Port on Aug. 29. This is one of the two piles of corn at the port, and the staff members added a cover to protect it from possible rains over the weekend.

A large quantity of corn is currently being stored on the ground at Pemiscot County Port because of low water level and slow barge traffic. Pemiscot County Port is the farthest south port in Missouri on Mississippi River. It is about 320 miles downstream from St. Louis and 110 miles upstream from Memphis, TN.

John Ferguson, economic developer of the county port authority, said in an email last Friday that the corn on the ground was about 1.1 million bushels or over $8 million worth of corn at the market price of Aug. 30.

The corn is piled up on two spots at the county port, with one of them 2.2 acres, the other 3.3 acres. The highest point of the pile is about 30 feet, Ferguson said.

The corn has started to pile up about two weeks ago, and more has been added each day, Ferguson said. “It’s harvest time,” he said, “A lot of corn comes everyday, but we don’t have enough capacity.” Ferguson said corn has been transported from some neighboring counties and also some places in Tennessee and Arkansas.

David Phelps, the operations manger at the Wepfer Marine facility located at Caruthersville City, Missouri, handles the fleeting services for the Pemiscot County Port. Phelps said he has been working around this area for about 38 years and it’s the first time he has seen the county port store corn on the ground at the port.

“There is a lot,” Phelps said. “The water (level) is so low that we move the barge to fleeting area, the boat would hit the ground.”

The water level is 10 to 15 feet below standard, Phelps said. “It’s very unusual.”

This is interesting because last year, the water level hit record high. Fortunately, the water level has risen about three feet after the rain last week — from 0.8 feet below the gage to 2.5 feet above the gage (Tuesday) , Ferguson said.

However, rain will not solve the whole problem. Ferguson and his colleagues are expecting a dredge team from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers to arrive in the coming week. “They can help us remove the silt and sand and provide ample depth for barge loading,” he said.

However, the dredge team will not come until about September 12 because they are currently working at New Madrid on the north side of Pemiscot.

In fact, New Madrid is one of locations on Mississippi River in Missouri that have the most difficult situation for barge traffic, Bob Anderson, Public Affairs Officer of U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division, said. New Madrid County Port and New Madrid City Port are one mile from each other, and they are located about 270 miles downstream from St. Louis and 160 miles upstream from Memphis, TN.

Both the county port and the city port in New Madrid had been closed for a while. County port was reopened on Sep. 2, and the crew is still finishing up the dredging work for the city port, which expects to be reopen on Sep.9, Anderson said.

The drought has increased the need for maintenance at multiple locations along the Mississippi River, Anderson said. “We need more frequent dredging this year.”

Asides from waiting from dredging, staff members are working everyday to load the newly arrived corn from trucks, and pile them up using escalators, Ferguson said. They also prepared a cover to protect the corn from getting wet.

“We hope more rain in the coming days can further help relieve the situation,” Ferguson said.



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