The condition of the drought-depleted barge channel on the Mississippi River "is as bad as it's going to get" but is unlikely to improve during the rest of the summer, a Coast Guard admiral said Wednesday.

Vice Adm. John Costello, a member of President Reagan's Interagency Drought Task Force, told a news conference that the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers should be able to maintain the current level of barge traffic on the Mississippi for up to three months.He said river traffic is 50 percent of normal in some spots but will not get any worse.

"The condition of the channel is as bad as it's going to get," Costello said. "I see it staying exactly where it is at right now."

Costello said the river may get lower, but unless it fails to rain in the next 60 to 90 days, the channel itself will not get lower.

"It's a serious problem," Costello said, "but the total system has a great deal of resiliency. The effect will not be as dramatic as might be expected.