THEBES, Ill. (KMOX) — Two members of the Illinois congressional delegation got a firsthand look at urgent efforts to clear the Mississippi River bedrock that’s crimping shipping and say they’re closely monitoring the situation on the waterway.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. William L. Enyart (D-Belleville) were briefed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is removing pinnacles from the river that are now hazardous because the water level is so low.
Durbin says “Mother Nature has dealt us a difficult hand” with a lingering drought that’s dropped the Mississippi’s depths. Enyart says he’s “deeply concerned” about the economic implications of the shallow river.
The rock-clearing effort is considered vital in ensuring that stretch of river remains open to barge traffic.
Deputy district engineer Joe Kellett discusses the status at Thebes: “It is now the critical location on the river, and there today we stand with a river depth of a little over 10 feet. It’s still allowing the navigation to continue to operate as it has in the past,” he said.
Kellett says he expects to keep the channel open with at least nine feet of water, but barge companies are light-loading and using smaller tows, making the shipping of grain more expensive by approximately $1 a bushel for corn.
The affected stretch of the river is between East St. Louis and Cairo.
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