As water levels continue to drop on the Mississippi River, concern over a "shut-down" is growing.
According to The American Waterways Operators(AWO) and Waterways Council(WCI), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' latest weather and water forecast for the Mississippi River is only adding more concern over the looming "shut-down."
Near Thebes, Illinois, south of St. Louis, where rock pinnacle removal work is taking place, the needed 9-foot draft to operate on the river is feared to fall to an 8-foot draft, as soon as January 5th. The majority of towboats require a 9-foot draft to operate and only a small number of towing vessels can operate at 7 to 8-foot draft levels.
Stakeholders in the AWO are continuing to urge The Corps of Engineers' and Administration officials to release a minimal amount of water from the Missouri River reservoirs to avert this effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge transportation.
While the Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard have said that they will not officially close the river, falling water levels and a lack of sustained water will preclude navigation because towboats will be physically unable to transit the area between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill.
Speaking in a press release, Michael J. Toohey, WCI's President and CEO said, "The Administration must direct the Corps to release enough water to sustain navigation on the Mississippi River now or time will have run out and an effective shutdown could remain in place for weeks."
Earlier in December, you may recall that The Corps decided not to release water from Mark Twain Lake into the Mississippi River, due to the lakes own low water levels.
As short and long term forecast are showing no relief for the ongoing drought, ramifications such as this one are sure to become more prevalent.