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Mississippi River reopened to barge traffic

At around 8 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guard officials reopened the Mississippi River to commercial traffic.

The river had been closed in an area near Diamond Bluff after two tow boats and their barges ran aground on July 6.

Coast Guard officials then closed the shipping channel on July 7, from Mile 801 to 807, approximately four miles upstream of Lock and Dam No. 3.

According to Mark Davidson, a spokesman for the St. Paul District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, dredging operations started on Monday and were completed on Tuesday at around 8 p.m.

"Dredging took about seven hours and they removed nearly 4,000 cubic yards of sediment," said Davidson.

The contractor used a backhoe mounted on a barge to dredge the material from the river bottom. It was then placed on a barge and taken to another location for unloading.

Silt buildup is pretty common along the river, according to Davidson who said that the Corps surveys the river on a regular basis to make sure all channels have enough depth to support commercial shipping.

But despite the survey Davidson noted that groundings still happen.

"This happens two to three times a year," he said.

Davidson said the Corps also works with commercial shippers to see what areas of the river are in need of dredging.