Politicians To View Mississippi River Dredge Site
THEBES, IL - Federal lawmakers from Illinois will get a firsthand look Monday at urgent efforts to clear Mississippi River bedrock that's crimping shipping on the crucial waterway.
Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Bill Enyart will be briefed on Monday about the work near Thebes by Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard officials, then tour the site by boat before addressing reporters.
Corps-hired contractors have been working since mid-December to clear underwater rock pinnacles from the river. Original plans to blast away the rock were delayed when contractors found early success using excavating equipment for removal.
This isn't the first time that the stretch of river just below Cape Girardeau has seen extensive work to maintain navigation. Blasting was done during the drought of 1988-89 to remove 125,000 cubic yards of rock. Further blasting and grinding in 2006 and 2009 met with mixed results.
The effort is considered vital in ensuring that stretch of river remains open to barge traffic as the lingering drought continues to lower the level of the Mississippi. Midwestern grain producers use river shipping more than ever, because of increased overseas demand for American soybeans and other products.
Barge shipping is the most economical form of transportation for the products, but lower river levels force operators to fill barges only partially to avoid hitting bottom in the shallower channels. Barge industry trade groups have expressed concern the ever-dropping river could further restrict barge weights to the point that shipping on the river is halted.