'Impending Economic Crisis:' Mississippi River Commerce Threatened by Low WaterSubmitted by Peace Gold Love on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 22:25
Detroit Free Press: A crucial 200-mile stretch of the Mississippi River may be on the verge of shutdown to barge traffic, a move that could paralyze commerce on the USA's most vital inland waterway and ultimately drive up consumer prices.
"What's at stake is potentially shutting down one of the most important navigation arteries in the world," says Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers, Cargill's barge business.
The temporary closure of the Mississippi from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., could result from an Army Corps of Engineers plan to reduce water flow from a reservoir into the Missouri River starting today, shipping companies and industry groups warn. The Missouri flows into the Mississippi near St. Louis.
The corps annually decreases water releases to ensure adequate reservoir levels and to prevent ice buildup and flooding. This year, already-low river levels caused by drought could shrink to the point that barges carrying grain, coal and other products won't be able to navigate the Mississippi, says Debra Colbert of the Waterways Council, which represents ports and shippers.
"This is an impending economic crisis" that could delay shipment of $7 billion in commodities in December and January, she says. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, both Democrats, and members of Congress have asked the White House to intervene.