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Corps of Engineers plan to reduce Mississippi water flow worries barge industry

Rose Krzton-Presson

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to limit Missouri River's flow into the Mississippi has representatives of the barge industry worried. The Corps plans to cut the amount of water discharged at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota by 30 percent because of concerns of another drought in the Midwest next summer.

American Waterways Operators, which represents the barge industry in Washington D.C., is putting pressure on Congress and the Obama Administration to curtail the Corp’s decision. AWO director of public affairs Ann McCulloch says the Corps’ decision will impact any industry that relies on the Mississippi for moving goods and services.

“If the reductions from the Missouri River flows happen as they are planned to happen, the Mississippi River will start to see those effects in early December,” McCulloch said. “So if you look at the value of commodities that travel on the Mississippi River, just in the value of commodities for those two months alone, you’re looking at an estimated worth of seven billion dollars. And that’s billion not million. That’s an awful lot of cargo.”

McCulloch  says the AWO understands the importance of water conservation and wants to keep the Mississippi flowing on the minimal amount of flows needed to ensure river navigation.

"We anticipate rock formations on a critical stretch north of St. Louis will prevent navigation coming south. Because of that potential bottleneck the whole river system could be affected."

The Corps says it will continue their efforts of dredging and rock removal to keep the Mississippi’s shipping lanes open as long as possible.

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