“We are working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to keep this port open so farmers can use it throughout the harvest season,” he said. “People need to appreciate the value that even these smaller ports on the local, state and national economies. We are fortunate this year to have extra funding that came through recovery money from last year’s flood.”

Maxwell said the corps has worked in the slack-water harbor, an area just over 3 miles away from the main current of the river. Water depth in that harbor varies greatly, so the focus is on the shallowest portions.

“Dredging based on river gauge predictions has bought us some time. We have increased the channel depths in places that were 6 to 10 feet to a new depth of 15 to 17 feet,” he said.

Kavanaugh Breazeale, a spokesman for the Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said one of the corps’ primary missions is to maintain a 9-foot-deep channel that is 300 feet wide in the Mississippi River and a 9-foot-deep channel in the ports to allow commercial traffic to pass.

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“Over the years the corps has worked to improve the efficiency of the Mississippi River to keep it and its tributaries open to commercial traffic,” he said. “Thanks to dredging and channel improvements, the corps has ensured that commercial traffic is able to move up and down the river to support the national and local economies.”

Breazeale said the historic flood of 2011 deposited large amounts of silt in harbor and river beds, contributing to the need for extra dredging this year. The Vicksburg District is operating four dredges, funded by the Disaster Appropriations Relief Act of 2012, as part of the effort to restore and repair the Mississippi River and its tributaries following the flood.

Breazeale said the Vicksburg river gauge reached 57.1 feet during the 2011 flood. This year, on July 12, that gauge was at 4.9 feet. The last severe drought to hit the region was in 1988, when the gauge dipped as low as 1.6 feet below zero.

“Unfortunately, unless drought conditions subside and an adequate amount of rain occurs to raise water levels in the river, the district’s efforts will be overcome by the lack of rainfall,” he said.