First it was a river too high.
Now it’s a river too low.
The lows in the Mississippi River are not the lowest ever, but shippers and Coast Guard officials said that a drought through the Midwest is causing shoal conditions in the river.
No injuries yet, though, Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Walthour told The Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi.
At Vicksburg, the river is 52 feet below its record height of May 2011.
The low water isn’t likely a permanent condition, but it does provide another indication of why Louisiana and the nation have a huge commercial interest in the traffic on the Mississippi.
Members of the state delegation in Congress have been pushing for prompt use of a trust fund — dedicated to just this purpose, and funded with a tax on shippers — that pays for dredging and other maintenance of the nation’s ports and harbors.
Too often, with this fund as with others, the federal government can let money pile up in funds and mask the size of the federal deficit.
It’s a cost-free stimulus, though, to spend money the government has already collected for the purposes for which it was intended.
Making the river safe for navigation requires attention to maintenance.