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Dredging continues on upper Mississippi River, barge traffic still delayed

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Millions of dollars of cargo remain at a standstill on the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin -- but officials hope to get the barges moving again by the weekend.

The Army Corps of Engineers says at least 350 barges are stuck north of Winona Minnesota while crews remove large deposits of sediment that accumulated from a late thaw and heavy rains over the spring and summer.

Steve Tapp of the Army Corps said four dredges and two other crews were brought in to clear out massive sediment deposits which are being placed onto boats and carried to shore. Experts say the delays are dangerously close to the grain harvest season -- when the barges will be needed to carry corn, soybeans, and wheat down to the Gulf of Mexico for exporting.

Retired Minnesota economics professor Jerry Fruin says it's got people on "pins and needles" due to the enormity of the grain crop. Dredging is always a part of the maintenance work on the Mississippi, but Tapp says this year's cleanups are by far the biggest he's seen in his 25 years on the river.