First tow comes through today

By John Weiss

ALMA, WIS. — The first towboat of the year, which is pushing 15 barges, went through the Alma, Wis., Lock and Dam on the Mississippi River at 2:50 a.m. today and was expected to be through Lake Pepin well before noon.

The Deana Ann with three empty barges and 12 full ones should reach St. Paul later today or early Tuesday, said Jim Adank, head operator of the lock and dam at Alma. The arrival of the first tow signals the official beginning of the year’s commercial navigation season.

The first tow is earlier than last year but quite a bit later than the 10-year average of March 16, according to the Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul district. The earliest for the lock was March 3 in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The latest was May 9, 2001, following heavy flooding.


The locks are ready to accept tows earlier than they actually come, but ice on Lake Pepin, a natural reservoir of the river between Reads Landing and Red Wing, usually keeps them downriver longer. The ice thinned and weakened considerably last week, officials say. The thickest ice the Deana Ann hit was 10 inches, Adank said.

No more tows are in the area heading upriver, he said.

For more information, go to

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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