Mississippi River still shut after fuel spill

The Mississippi River remained closed to navigation along an eight-mile stretch near Le Claire, Iowa, on Tuesday after a boat containing up to 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lube oil struck a submerged object and sank late on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

One northbound towboat with no barges and two southbound towboats pushing a total of 25 barges were waiting at mid-morning on Tuesday to pass through the closed section from river mile marker 493 to 501, about 15 miles upriver from Davenport.

Officials have deployed nearly 3,000 feet of boom to contain any fuel leaking from the sunken boat.

“The boom is still around the vessel, partially submerged. The Army Corps of Engineers is still assessing to see when the river could be reopened,” said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash.

U.S. grain shippers rely on the Mississippi River to haul corn, soybeans and wheat via barge from Midwest farms to export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico. About 60 per cent of all U.S. grain and oilseed exports exit the country through elevators along the Gulf Coast.

The closure comes as shippers in the northern Midwest are scrambling to move barges of grain south ahead of the seasonal closure of the river.

There was no immediate impact on grain barge basis values at the Gulf Coast, grain dealers said.

— Karl Plume reports for Reuters from Chicago.

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