River levels worry barge company

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POSTED: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 4:41pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 4:45pm

The rising Mississippi is raising concerns for a barge company. The higher the water levels, the more money the company loses.

Arnie Rothstein has watched the mighty Mississippi get pretty high in the capitol city. "In my lifetime, I can honestly say, I saw it peak around the 40s, maybe at 44 [feet]," he says.

The predicted level at it's peak this year will be higher than he's ever seen it. "This time they're talking 47 and half."

It's a frustration for the general manager of the Ingram Barge Company. "The water levels have already been hampering our revenue," he explains.

Right now, restrictions up the river are hurting companies down here. The tow boats aren't allowed to push as many barges for safety reasons. "We have to remove barges from tow. When you start knocking barges out of the revenue stream, that hurts the pocket book."

Rothstein is bracing himself for more bad news. "Operations may shut down," he says.

The higher the river gets, the more dangerous it is to work on it. "When is enough enough to where it becomes a risk and anything that happens is catastrophic?"

Rothstein says there may come a time in the next several weeks when the Port of Greater Baton Rouge will have to shut down or restrict activities to daylight only.

"Operating on caution and just following it everyday will help us to keep up with it," says Rothstein.

Until then, it's business as usual, for as long as Old Man River allows it.

NBC33 tried to get in touch with the port several times to see if they're concerned about the river levels, and what they predict for their operations over the next few weeks. No one from the port returned our calls.

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