Middle Mississippi River traffic still in peril, say waterways organizations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Coast Guard personnel have told news reporters in St. Louis that rock and limestone blasting about 125 miles south of St. Louis has succeeded in clearing a nine-foot channel through the middle Mississippi River.
On Jan. 2, 2013, Capt. Steve Teschendorf of the U.S. Coast Guard told KTVI Fox 2 News of St. Louis (www.fox2now.com) that rock blasting work will help keep the river open for another month.
“We`re still open to traffic,” Teschendorf told the TV station, indicating that “every single barge is getting through.”
“Over the last couple of weeks, 470 vessels and their barges have gotten through safely,” added the Coast Guard officer, noting that the shipping volume “equates to roughly 500,000 semi-trucks.”
The TV news report also noted that the USACE had removed some 890 cubic yards of limestone from the low water area near Thebes, Ill., has helped make the channel two feet deeper. More blasting work needs to be done in early and mid-January, the report indicated.
Col. Chris Hall of the USACE told KTVI that the Corps used a combination of hydraulic hammers, large tracked loaders and blasting to remove the rock formations. “We feel very confident we can maintain our nine-foot navigation channel—nine feet deep [and] 300 feet wide—through the next month,” Hall told KTVI.
However, the report also indicated that the rock removal process stops traffic 16 hours out of every day, with the Coast Guard directing traffic through the zone overnight.
The traffic jams, low water levels and potential complete stop in traffic remains a concern to the inland shipping industry and the trade groups that represent it, according to associations supporting the inland waterways business.
In a Jan. 2, 2013, news release, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) released revised data on the economic impact of an effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge traffic in January.
The groups say that in January alone (from Jan. 7 to Jan. 31), “The potential supply-chain disruption in Mississippi River states could affect more than 8,000 jobs, more than $54 million in wages and benefits, as well as 7.2 million tons of commodities valued at $2.8 billion.”
“The uncertainty of this deteriorating situation for the nation’s shippers is having as much of an impact as the lack of water itself,” says Michael Toohey, WCI’s president and CEO. “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,” he adds.
“As these new economic numbers clearly indicate, our nation’s shippers, farmers, manufacturers, operators, consumers and working Americans with jobs now at risk will be hard hit in the first month of the New Year unless water is provided now to avert a shutdown,” says Tom Allegretti, AWO’s president and CEO. “Halting waterborne commerce and exports during the busiest period for agriculture shipping will have impacts on the entire nation.”