Sediment shuts down Miss. River at St. Louis

By the Associated Press | November 18, 2011 | 3:10 PM EST

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Barge traffic on the Mississippi River is at a standstill in both directions near St. Louis as crews scramble to clear sediment that's clogging the waterway.

Barges were lined up in a holding pattern near downtown St. Louis at midday Friday. They were expected to spend the night there as dredging efforts continued.

Mike Petersen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that sediment clearing would be suspended Saturday long enough for the cargo-loaded vessels to clear. The buildup is being blamed on strong crosscurrents caused by recent accidents on the river. Petersen says those currents also complicate dredging.

Any prolonged closure could create a backlog of shipping barges and slow commerce. The river is a major artery for moving coal, grain, ore, gravel, auto parts and other products.