Barge traffic to feel effects as Army Corps cuts flow on Missouri River
BY JIM SALTER Associated Press
Saturday, November 24, 2012
11/24/12 at 5:44 AM
ST. LOUIS - The Army Corps of Engineers on Friday began reducing the flow from a Missouri River reservoir, a move expected to worsen low-water conditions on the Mississippi River and potentially bring barge traffic to a halt within weeks.
One result of this year's drought, the worst in decades, has been a big drop in water levels on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
The Corps of Engineers office in Omaha, Neb., announced earlier this month plans to reduce the outflow from the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D. Corps spokeswoman Monique Farmer said the reduction began as scheduled Friday morning. By late-morning, the flow that had started at 37,500 cubic feet per second had been cut to 35,500 cubic feet per second.
Farmer said plans call for a gradual reduction down to 12,000 cubic feet per second by Dec. 11.
"It's just an extended period of drought, and that forecast is expected to persist into the spring," Farmer said. "We're hoping Mother Nature brings some snow this winter, but we've been told to expect low, stable conditions, that it's probably going to remain dry."
The cut in flow comes despite opposition from the governors of Missouri and Illinois and 15 U.S. senators whose states sit along the Mississippi River. Scott Holste, a spokesman for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, said the office never received a reply to a letter Nixon sent Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, asking that the corps delay plans to reduce the Missouri River flow.
The Mississippi is nearing historic lows between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. Barges are already required to carry lighter loads, and the middle of the river could be closed to barge traffic if the water level at St. Louis dips below minus 5 feet. It was at minus 0.45 feet Friday.
Barge operators and those who ship on the Mississippi have warned that stopping barge traffic would risk economic catastrophe for coal, agriculture, petroleum and other interests. Some companies have said they may have to lay off workers if barge traffic is halted for any significant amount of time.
Original Print Headline: Missouri River flow reduced
Two barges head north on the Mississippi River past St. Louis, as seen from East St. Louis, Ill. The Army Corps of Engineers has begun reducing the flow from a Missouri River reservoir, a move expected to worsen low-water conditions on the Mississippi River and potentially halt barge traffic at St. Louis within weeks. JIM SUHR/Associated Press