Low river level causing few problems

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 2, 1999

The Mississippi River was at its lowest Thursday — 6.9 feet — for any day in December since 1976.

But despite the river’s continued low level, there haven’t been too many serious problems on the Mississippi, said Wayland Hill, a civil engineering technician with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.

“We have not had that many problems,” he said.

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This year, the river has been at its lowest since 1988, when the level went down to 3.9 feet.

Hill said that after the river level dipped so low in 1988, a dike system was set up which confines the river and also scours for low level spots that have to be dredged, Hill said.

The river at Natchez is actually 17.3 feet above sea level, but the gauges are set with sea level being 0 feet.

Because of the low river level, the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen riverboats have not been able to dock in Vicksburg, said Delta Queen Steamboat Co. spokeswoman Lucette Brown.

The Queens are able to dock in Natchez as usual, and the tour company is taking its passengers to Vicksburg by land so that they can tour there.

The river’s low level did give the city of Natchez one advantage this year. The boat ramp used by the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen riverboats at Natchez Under-the-Hill was extended last month.

That made the low river level “kind of a blessing, really,” said City Engineer David Gardner. “It enabled us to look at the ramp and see what effects the river has done to the ramp.”

R.W. Delaney Construction Co. of Natchez added three 30-foot sections to the ramp, at a cost of about $14,400 each, Gardner said.

The work began about six weeks ago, when the river level was about 11 feet, Gardner said. That allowed city officials to see that some damage had been done to the ramp, and repairs were made along with the extension.