American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council still seek assurance that nine-foot navigation channel is maintained.
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) have applauded recent statements from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which indicate that the Mississippi River will be able to sustain navigation through the end of January for towboats and barges at a nine-foot draft, as rock pinnacle removal work at Thebes, Ill., has gone better than expected.
The two groups also say the USACE released additional water from the Carlyle Lake Reservoir, Ill., to augment water depth on the mid-Mississippi.
While the two groups express appreciation for the work done to keep the Mississippi accessible, they are seeking assurances that all options to maintain navigation without further restrictions on draft remain on the table, noting that certainty is particularly important, with long-range forecasts continuing to show water levels on the Mississippi dropping to historic lows.
“The Corps’ progress in removing rock formations and providing additional water releases is a positive development,” AWO president and CEO Tom Allegretti, says. “However, we are not out of the woods, and further assurances are needed to provide industry with certainty that is needed for sound business and transportation planning beyond January.”
The two groups say since November 2012, barge operators and shippers have had to base operating decisions about loading, transiting and purchases based on the best available, though changing, estimates. Economic damage has resulted from that uncertainty. In some cases, the size of tows carrying essential commodities for export and domestic use has been cut in half; transit times have more than doubled; orders have been cancelled or curtailed; and jobs have been jeopardized.
Michael Toohey, WCI president and CEO, says, “If a barge has a 14-day transit time from loading to the low points on the river, barge operators and their customers must make plans based on the forecasted water depth at the time of the barge’s arrival at the bottleneck. That is why longer-term assurance that barges can reliably load to a nine-foot draft even beyond January is absolutely critical.”