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Mississippi Levees Endangered

No injuries reported after a barge incident on the Mississippi River, but a portion of the river had to be closed down for several hours.

The accident occurred last week, and involved a tow that was pushing a massive barge formation. About 20 barges were involved, most of which were carrying grain, one of which collided with a moored barge. At least three barges are reported to have sunk.

The barge was owned by Archer Daniels Midland Company. According to accounts, the barge formation was being pushed down river in fast currents making navigation difficult.

Barges on the Mississippi River are coming under new scrutiny since the recent floods. Enforcement agencies are having trouble keeping barge operators in check as they travel too close to the levees. Barges are required to stay at least 180 feet from levees.  However, over the past few weeks alone, officials have reported 28 cases where barges have come too close to the levees. Recent barge accidents on the Mississippi River have underscored fears that runaway barges will crash into moored barges, causing these vessels to crash into a levee.

There are also concerns that the current fines for operating too close to a levee are too low. The grand fine for such violations is $100. Lawmakers are now working to pass legislation that would increase the fine to at least $10,000 with an additional six-month jail sentence.