ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - The Army Corps of Engineers will not release water from dams upstream on the Missouri river to keep barge traffic moving on the Mississippi river near St. Louis. They say they can keep the river open despite forecast record low water levels by dredging. Everyone hopes they’re right.
The Corps of Engineers says the one dredging vessel in this area will soon have other dredges from elsewhere working with it. The Corps now claim dredging alone may be able to keep the river open between St. Louis and Cairo. River levels have stabilized for now but are still projected to hit record lows by the first of the year. That creates problems for everyone who depends on the river for a job.
"Once you get down that low you don’t know where your tough spots are going to be, so you need to have the dredges in place so you can go dredge wherever it is you hit a place that needs maintenance." said Joe Kellet of the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The decision of the corps is that we’re not releasing water now because we think the river will remain navigable. Obviously that’s something that we’ll know more about as we go along, and if the water gets to be near that dangerously low level, the decision could be changed." said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) Illinois.
Barge traffic’s already been affected. Towboats heading downriver usually push around 35 barges. That numbers been cut back. THere’s less cargo in the barges so they won’t scrape bottom.