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Barge Traffic on Mississippi River Through Winona, La Crosse Declines in 2023

After multiple busy years at the Winona commercial port, barge traffic in the area experienced a decrease this year. As of the end of October, Winona’s commercial port recorded 727 barges, which is 223 fewer than the previous year at the same time. From 2014 to 2023, the port recorded over 800 barges by the end of October eight of the years, and more than 1,000 had moved through the port by that time in five of those years.

November and the start of December data for the commercial port had not been released yet as of Friday, but on average, since 2014, only about 165 barges in total visited the port in November and December. Lucy McMartin, director of community development for the city of Winona, said many factors likely played a role in the reduced barge traffic this year.

“The lower numbers may be due to commodity prices, which are lower, and river levels have been quite low,” she said.

Adam Binsfeld, president of Brennan Marine in La Crosse, said 2023 was “a very challenging year.” Brennan Marine operates the fleet at La Crosse’s harbor, he said. Binsfield said high spring water levels, followed a short time later by drought, could be credited for the challenges faced by industries that rely on the river.

Binsfield said the region is fortunate to be in a controlled environment with dams that maintain river levels, but water levels of lower sections of the Mississippi River can impact navigation on the entire river system.

“It wasn’t a terrible year for the port, but it was certainly not what it could have been without those challenges,” Binsfeld said.

The Upper Mississippi navigation season ended earlier this month. A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ St. Paul District said the last tow of the season for the region departed Lock and Dam No. 10, near Guttenberg, Iowa, on Dec. 3.

The district’s staff will work over the winter to prepare for next year’s navigation season, as they work on maintenance projects on multiple lock and dams, including at Lock and Dam No. 7 near La Crescent and Lock and Dam No. 4 near Alma, Wisconsin.

Source: Minona Daily News