MINNEAPOLIS - As Mike DeRusha looks out over the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock and dam, he considers himself lucky.
"Level-wise, we're doing good right now," he said.
Further down the 2,300 mile river, folks aren't so lucky.
"Down around the Memphis area, the river, because of the drought conditions, is starting to get lower and that's why they're starting to have some backups with barges," DeRusha explained.
In Cairo, Illinois, the river's level is 12 feet below normal. In Memphis, it is 17 feet short and in Vicksburg, Mississippi the river is 21 feet shy of normal watermarks.
"Parts of the channel, there are only 8 feet of clearance, and the barge will run aground," Joe Pennings of Davenport, Iowa said.
Pennings uses the river to ship a lot of his product.
Shippers are cutting their loads and moving half empty barges down the river just to keep them afloat. Profits go down and the costs remain the same.
"It takes the same amount of fuel to burn and the same amount of manpower to operate this vessel," Ed Henleben of Ingram Barge Company said.
At some point, the costs of the goods being shipped down river could be passed on to the consumer. About 60 percent of the nation's grain, 22 percent of its oil and gas, and 20 percent of the nation's coal goes down the Mississippi. It's just part of $180 billion in goods that go down the mighty waterway annually.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the drought's overall effect hasn't hit your pocket book yet.
"If there are going to be higher food costs, you will likely see them later in the year and the first part of next year," he said last week.
Back in Minneapolis, Greg Genz with the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association keeps things flowing.
"We're stable. We're still moving," he told KARE 11.
But further down river, on the way to the Gulf, "there's definitely a problem out there. It isn't as extreme at this point yet as it could be," he warned.
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