Revised data on the economic impact of an effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge traffic in the month of January has been released by the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, Inc. The data indicates the potential supply-chain disruption between January 7th and 31st alone could affect more than eight-thousand jobs, more than 54-million dollars in wages and benefits and 7.2-million tons of commodities valued at 2.8-billion dollars. Waterways Council President and CEO Michael Toohey says the uncertainty of the deteriorating situation for the nation’s shippers is having as much of an impact as the lack of water itself. He says the Obama Administration must direct the Army Corps of Engineers to release enough water from Missouri River reservoirs to sustain navigation on the Mississippi River now – or time will have run out and an effective shutdown could remain in place for weeks.
The latest weather and water forecasts for the Mississippi River near Thebes, Illinois suggest commerce could come to a halt within the next week to 10 days. During that time – the required nine-foot draft will fall to an eight-foot draft. Most towboats require a nine-foot draft to operate – while only a very small number of towing vessels can operate at eight- or seven-foot drafts. For this reason – though the Corps and U.S. Coast Guard continue to state they will not officially close the river – the AWO and Waterways Council say the falling water levels and a lack of sustained water will preclude navigation between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois.
AWO President and CEO Tom Allegretti says the new economic numbers clearly indicate our nation’s shippers, farmers, manufacturers, operators and consumers will be hard hit this month if water is not provided to avert a shutdown. He says halting waterborne commerce and exports during the busiest period for agriculture shipping will have impacts on the entire nation. That’s why Allegretti says his group continues to urge the White House to immediately authorize the release of additional water to maintain navigation on the nation’s most important waterway.
Different Mississippi River Story from Corps
Mike Petersen – a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Mississippi River water levels near the so-called rock pinnacles at Thebes, Illinois will remain above 10-feet through Thursday (Jan. 10). By Friday (Jan. 11) – expedited work to remove the so-called rock pinnacles at that location will add another two-feet of depth. That has some suggesting the river will remain safe for barge traffic for at least the next week and possibly through January 26th. While Petersen reportedly isn’t confirming the later date – he did say the Corps expects the river to remain open. But the National Weather Service has forecast that the waterway near St. Louis may drop to nine-feet as early as January 9th. The American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, Inc. say that would bring commerce on the Mississippi River to an effective halt.
Source: NAFB News Service