Lock repairs slow Upper Miss barge tows

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating a series of cable failures in the main lock at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Also known as Locks and Dam 26, Melvin Price is located on the Mississippi River, south of Alton, Ill. The main 1,200-foot lock chamber has been closed since Dec. 28 due to problems with the cables that operate the lock gates, the USDA reports. Service may not be restored until June 2014. However, the 600-foot auxiliary chamber at Locks and Dam 26 is operational. The Corps and the barge industry are working together to maintain the flow of barge traffic up to and into the Illinois River, the USDA report said.

The USDA also reported today that grain inspections remain strong. For the week ending Jan. 23, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major port regions were three million metric tons (mmt), up 12 percent from the previous week, 33 percent from the same time last year, and 44 percent over the three-year average. An increase in demand from Asia has been behind the rebound in Mississippi Gulf inspections and has pushed total year-to-date inspections of grain up 46 percent compared to the same time last year, USDA said. Soybean inspections reached 1.91 million mmt, up 25 percent from last week, a 69 percent increase from last year at this time, and 76 percent above the three-year average. Inspections of soybeans were also the highest since mid-November. Soybean shipments to Asia, primarily China, jumped 30 percent from the previous week, according to USDA.

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