Low Mississippi River Levels Now A Political Issue

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The Mississippi’s low water levels are now on a political issue.

Senator Claire McCaskill is urging Governor Jay Nixon him to request an emergency declaration from President Barack Obama.

This comes after the Army Corp of Engineers reduced the flow of water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi river in South Dakota which could affect river traffic next month.

Paul Rohde with the Waterways Council says you could be affected if the water levels on the Mississippi River continue to drop to record lows causing barge traffic to come to a halt.  "In trying to get the general public to understand this is a big deal for their lives when you flip on a switch and expect the lights to come on that's coming generally from coal, coal is moved by barge," said Rohde.

Water levles on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are lower than usual due to record drought. Dave Gordon, Chief of Hydraulic Design with the Army Corps Of Engineers (Corps) says the Corps has been preparing for a possible disaster, ever since July when the historic drought started taking shape."We've been working ever since then to make sure these guys have the nine feet of depth to get through during low water periods like we're seeing now," said Gordon.

The urgency of the situation prompted Senator Claire McCaskill to write a letter to Governor Jay Nixon formally requesting he seeks an emergency declaration from President Obama. That would allow the Coprs to release enough water from dams to keep the barges, which haul millons of tons of commodities up and down the river, moving preventing a major disaster. Lt. Colin Fogergty with the U.S. Coast Guard says the problem is critial and has far reaching effects. "This is a problem that impacts not just Missouri, not just Illinois, not just the midwest, but the entire nation," said Fogergty.

When water released from a dam in North Dakota is slowed, the water level on the Mississippi River could drop dangerously low. Marty Hetel, with A-E-P River Operations in Chesterfield says if the water levels continue to drop and barge traffic grinds to a halt, it will send a tremendous blow to the economy and to people who work on barges up and down the river. "If we don't deliver those barges that carries these freight, the terminals that unload the barges have personnel working at them, the fleet pull these barges to and from the dock, the fueling services, all of those people are going to be not having a job to do," said Hettel.


Barge Industry Wants Federal Action On Dropping River Levels

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