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Window Closing For Low-Water Action on Mississippi River

According to The Waterways Journal Weekly, sister publication of HeartLand Boating, the window for action to halt the shutdown of all traffic on the mid-Mississippi River by December 10 is growing smaller. River industries and their allies have stepped up their efforts to get the President to act immediately and force the Corps of Engineers to halt cutoffs of water from Missouri River reservoirs and to blast dangerous rock pinnacles in the Mississippi River near Thebes and Grand Tower, Ill.

The Corps began cutbacks of releases from the Gavins Point dam near Yankton, S.D., on November 23. The flow was to be reduced from 37,500 cubic feet per second (cfs.) down to 12,000 cfs. by December 11. There has been no significant rainfall in the Missouri River basin, and little to no additional precipitation is forecasted for the region over the next 10 days.

According to Corps information, the Mississippi at St. Louis has set 34 daily low water records to date this year, and 43 low-water records at Grand Tower, Ill., site of the rock pinnacles. An e-mail by Corps hydraulic engineer Russell Errett estimated that the St. Louis gauge would measure -6 to -7 feet by the middle or end of December; at -7, most commercial barge traffic would cease.

The Corps maintains that its Missouri River Master Manual doesn’t allow it to consider Mississippi River navigation needs in managing its Missouri River reservoirs, and that increased drawdowns this year are necessary to protect next year’s navigation season on the Missouri, in light of forecasts of another dry year. Missouri river flows currently contribute up to 65 percent of Mississippi flows at St. Louis.

A letter to the President, the secretary of the Army, and the national and regional heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned of “economic catastrophe in the heartland of the United States” if immediate action was not taken under section 501(b) of the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Read the full story at www.waterwaysjournal.net.

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