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Mississippi ice remains too thick with barge season approaching

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LAKE CITY, Minn. (KTTC) -- We're still a few months away from being able to fully enjoy Lake Pepin, but there's an industry itching to move cargo up river through the ice.

Since 1998 measurements have been taken on Lake Pepin to ensure that barges carrying cargo can make it through to St. Paul safely.

United States Army Corps of Engineers survey technicians start measuring the thickness of the ice on Lake Pepin in February with the goal of helping barges make it through the ice by March.

U.S Army Corps of Engineer Survey Technician Bill Chelmowski.

"This being the widest point of the Mississippi, that is why the ice gets the thickest and this is the last point that the barges have to go through before they can get to St. Paul," Bill Chelmowski, U.S Army Corps of Engineers Survey Technician said. "The barges that do come up are typically carrying anywhere from coal, corn, fertilizer that they can bring up."

A barge passing through Lake Pepin in 2018.

"First we measure the the white ice and then we go down and measure the blue ice, we add the two together and that'll give us the ice thickness." Chelmowski added that barges can push through about 10 inches of ice.

However, with recent temperatures dropping Chelmowski said the ice is now three inches thicker than it was last week.

Between now and when the barges are on the ice, the survey team will be out on the lake once a week to get an accurate reading.

We asked Chelmowski when he thinks the process will wrap up? He answered, "That's up to Mother Nature."

Ubah Ali

Ubah Ali

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