(Reuters) - Receding water levels on the rain-swollen Mississippi River have allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reopen two locks on the waterway, and a Corps spokesman said on Friday that two other locks are expected to reopen this weekend.
The Mississippi is the main barge shipping channel for moving grain from the Midwest crop belt to export terminals at the Gulf Coast. Some 60 percent of all U.S. grain exports are shipped via the Gulf.
Lock 16 on the river at Muscatine, Iowa, and Lock 18 near Gladstone, Illinois, were reopened early on Friday after having been shut in late June because of heavy rains.
Lock 17 near New Boston, Illinois, is expected to reopen on Saturday but it could re-open as soon as Friday night, said William Ford, chief of locks and dams for the Army Corps' Rock Island district. Lock 20 at Canton, Missouri, should reopen late on Saturday or early Sunday. The Mississippi was still above flood stage at both locations, but water levels were declining.
Corps engineers, who manage the locks and dams of inland U.S. waterways, must remove critical lock operating equipment when the river gets too high.
(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Toni Reinhold)