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      Corps of Engineers to hold off blasting on the Mississippi

      The Army Corps of Engineers is delaying the use of explosives to blast away treacherous rock pinnacles on the Mississippi River in southern Illinois because crews are having so much success removing the rocks with excavating machinery.

      The U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating notices to mariners, and river closures are in effect for 16 hours on working days between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. each day during the rock removal, with traffic allowed to pass for eight hours.

      The corps has hired contractors to use explosives to remove about six miles of rock pinnacles near Thebes, Ill. The river's water level is so low in the area between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., that barge traffic is threatened.

      Blasting was scheduled to begin Tuesday but corps spokesman Mike Petersen says excavation barges were removing so much rock that the explosions are on hold for now.

      He says explosives will probably be needed eventually, but he is uncertain when that will happen.

      The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contributed to this story.