So far this summer’s drought hasn't affected shipping on the upper Mississippi River.

Further south, where the river is about 13 feet below normal level in some places, shipping isn’t doing so well.

Near Memphis, Tenn., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and barge operators are dredging to try to maintain a safe navigation channel and some shippers are lightening the load on barges where the water level dips.

But in our region, the river isn’t much lower than usual, officials say.

According to National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Welvaert, the average height for the river around this time of year is in the 4.7- to 5-foot range. In Winona, the river is around 5.5 feet, but it has been dropping from a high this spring of more than 9 feet.

“I wouldn't call this unusual at all,” Welvaert said, adding that since the river has been abnormally high the past couple of years, it may be perceived as low this year.

Rainfall farther north has contributed to keeping water levels higher, as have the lock and dam system, which stops just north of St. Louis, Miss. said Corps public relations specialist George Stringham.

The locks and dams are designed to maintain river levels by controlling the flow of water. When the water is high, dams walls are raised to let more water through and prevent the river from getting too high.

The walls are lowered when the flow decreases in order to keep levels above the 9-foot range, which is the range that barges in Winona are filled to, said the city’s director of economic development Lucy McMartin.

"We haven't seen any issues with the drought yet," she said. "We will have to wait and see how things develop."

Lee Newspapers reporter Mike Tighe contributed to this story.

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