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Barge Workers Fear Mississippi River Will Shut Down Soon

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- People who have worked on the Mississippi River for years fear  the great river will shut down soon to transportation.

Marty Hettel works for AEP River Operations, “I feel it’s going to close down.”

AEP River Operations has more than 3,300 barges and tow boats.  Tow traffic is already slowing down on a stretch of river north of St. Louis due to low water levels.

Hettel said, “We have the whole industry trying to remove all their equipment out of this area now.”

Companies don’t want their barges to get stuck in low water.  If river traffic comes to a halt, the American Waterway Operators organization estimates 9,500 workers in Illinois and Missouri could be threatened with losing their employment.  Wages of more than $70 million are at risk. 

Hettel added, “They can’t continue to pay their people and we’re going to put people in the unemployment line.”

The cost of goods for consumers could increase. Grain, oil, cement and coal are among many items shipped down the waterway.  Hettel said it’s $10 cheaper a ton to transport goods on the river as compared to roads and rail.      

People want the White House to step in and increase the flow on the Missouri River that flows into the Mississippi, as well as remove under water rock formations down stream.  Marty Hettel is not only asking President Obama to do something he is also calling on his higher power for help. 

Hettel said, “Us in the river industry have been praying for rain since April.”