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Mississippi River tow kicks off start of navigation season

March 21, 2022 GMT

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The first Mississippi River towboat has marked the unofficial start of the 2022 navigation season.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the Motor Vessel W. Red Harris was due to pass through Lock and Dam 3 near Welch on Monday afternoon.

The tow originated from St. Louis and was pushing nine barges to St. Paul. It had earlier passed through Lake Pepin, which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lake is the last major barrier to spring navigation because its ice is the last part of the river to break up.

The Corps’ St. Paul District maintains a 9-foot-deep navigation channel and operates 12 locks and dams to support navigation from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa.

The Corps measures ice thickness on Lake Pepin throughout the spring to report to tow companies about the impending ice-out. The average opening date of the navigation season has been March 20. Last year it was on March 19.