St. Louis, MO (WIBX) - Low water levels along the Mississippi River are causing problems for animals, people and the economy.

According to reports from the Associated Press on several news sites, water levels have sunk to near dangerous levels, forcing restrictions on barge traffic and posing problems for native fish and wildlife.

Currently, levels are near 12 feet deep, leaving open sand bars and other channels. Luckily, the water is still above the crucial 9 foot depth marker, where further regulations would be levied against barge operators. Lower water levels are also slowing down delivery times. Bloomberg is reporting that a normal trip from New Orleans to St. Louis takes 10 days, but because of the recent problems, that same trip takes 16.

Lower depths also pose risks for small fish who call the Mississippi home. Young fish are less capable of hiding, while others are driven out of their native homes. But, for certain creatures like the interior least, the exposed sandbars serve as a nesting ground.

Scientists and the Army Corps of Engineers are both monitoring the situation, and say an influx of water from the Missouri River combined with heavy rain and snow fall have helped alleviate the problem for the moment.

The Associated Press says a decision will be made regarding river conditions by the second week of January, if the situation continues to worsen.