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When considering the most complex concerns demanding headlines in 2022, Tom Heinold of the US Army Corps of Engineers offered a simple solution for average Iowans to help overcome both supply chain and inflation headaches. “Pray for rain,” the chief of operations for the Rock Island District advised while pointing to a major contributing factor for both menaces. With Iowa among the Midwestern states experiencing a drought for the third straight year, the Mississippi River has dropped to historically low water levels south of St. Louis – and below the 89-year-old lock and dam system Mr. Heinold helps maintain to keep the Upper Mississippi navigable to commercial traffic. Tim Hall of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources explains the lack of rainfall since 2019 feeding into the Mississippi – and even more so its main tributaries of the Missouri and Ohio rivers – has choked off barge traffic this fall up and down the busiest of America’s inland shipping corridors. The DNR’s coordinator of hydrology resources was part of a webinar recently where a comparison of Mississippi River levels was made at Memphis, Tennessee. “If you compare the water level of the river in 2019 during the flood – when the water was at its highest – to the exceptionally dry conditions there today when the water is at its lowest, the difference between those two water levels is 60 feet,” Mr. Hall said. “That’s a lot of water.” Because of the lock and dam system, the navigation channel from St. Louis north remains at a consistent depth, Mr. Heinold said. However, on the unregulated river downstream, the current lack of water flow is “not allowing them to run tows that are as wide, or as long or as deep,” as barge companies would like, Mr. Heinold added. “They load what they think they can get through on the lower river, which is making them take more trips and not be as efficient.” That in turn is leading to a growing problem for everyone from consumers to Iowa farmers to Cedar Rapids/Iowa City industries such as ADM and Cargill. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a corn producer if you're getting your fertilizer products on barges coming up the river, and you've already paid a ton more this year than you're used to paying,” Mr. Hall said. “What's next year going to look like? It's a bit of a scary proposition for them. And then in turn, how are they moving their product?”