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As crews clear sandbars, backed-up barges may sail down Mississippi River by weekend

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Federal officials hope to clear enough silt and sand from the Mississippi River so barge traffic can resume downstream this weekend.

Commercial traffic on the upper Mississippi has been choked off for weeks by large sediment deposits left behind by flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working since July to dredge two stretches of the river about 90 miles south of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Steve Tapp, who's leading the Corps' cleanup, says the areas may be clear by the weekend. That would free more than 350 waiting barges to carry millions of dollars in commodities south on one of the United States' most important waterways.

Tapp says a late thaw and high river levels blocked barges' passage earlier this year.

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