Flooding, lock closures halt barge traffic on stretch of Mississippi River

flood water
Floodwaters from the Mississippi River submerge structures at the Freedom Island Campground and Marina in Hager City, Wis., near Red Wing, Minn., on Monday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed eight of its Mississippi River locks in Minnesota and Wisconsin, saying river levels are unsafe for any navigation for the time being.

The temporary closures block barge and other river traffic south of the Twin Cities. The closed locks are:

  • Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis

  • Lock and Dam 1 in Minneapolis

  • Lock and Dam 3 in Welch, Minn., near Prairie Island and Red Wing

    A road sign in flood water
    A road sign at Levee Park in Red Wing, Minn., is half submerged in floodwater from the Mississippi River on Monday.
    Tim Evans for MPR News
  • Lock and Dam 4 in Alma, Wis.

  • Lock and Dam 5 in Minnesota City, Minn.

  • Lock and Dam 5A in Fountain City, Wis.

  • Lock and Dam 6 in Trempealeau, Wis.

  • Lock and Dam 8 in Genoa, Wis.

The Corps said another lock, at Guttenberg, Iowa, could close Tuesday.

The closures come as the Mississippi has been steadily rising — in some cases to the highest water levels seen in more than 20 years.

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Lee Nelson is with Upper River Services, a tow and barge service company in St. Paul. He said towboats and barges can ride the rising water, but flooding is still dangerous.

“This is the time to be very careful,” he said. “It’s been a few years, and so the riverbanks are being flushed of trees that have fallen and (other) things. So there’s a lot of debris that will be coming down now, and it’s not a safe time to be operating.”

Nelson said it may be another week before navigation can safely resume. He also said that floodwaters may have shifted sediment and altered the navigation channel.

“The river’s carrying a lot of sediment right now, it’s moving quickly — but when it falls off fast it then drops a lot of sediment out,” he said. “So we’re going to have to monitor things and the Corps will be doing that, surveying areas watching for shoaling or the shallowing of the river in certain places.”

The Corps said it expects that locks and navigation are likely to reopen in a week or so, gradually at first as the impact of the flooding becomes clearer.

Water floods a pizza and liquor store
Water from the Mississippi River floods the area surrounding Woodshed Pizza and Liquor Store in Hager City, Wis., on Monday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Wabasha, Lake City flooding

The cities of Wabasha and Lake City, Minn., were expecting the Mississippi River to crest Tuesday at the highest levels seen since 2001.

Rising waters have flooded some riverside buildings, closed streets and caused other headaches in the area.

The city of Wabasha declared a local emergency, with the main access road into town — which is also the primary artery to access the Interstate Bridge to Wisconsin — closed due to high water.

In Lake City, boats have been moved out of the marina, where flooding has been an issue. Emergency management officials said the threat to residential areas was relatively low.

MPR News’ Catharine Richert contributed to this report.