The serious situation resulting from low water on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. is looming as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) plans to halt releases from the upper Missouri River reservoirs on Nov. 22. As of now, without a significant amount of rainfall, waterborne commerce on the middle Mississippi River could come to a halt or be significantly limited on or about Dec. 10.
To avoid this, the USACE needs to take emergency action to ensure that water levels do not fall below levels needed to support navigation. Cessation or limitations on navigation will hamper the country’s inland waterway superhighway, imperiling the shipment of critical cargoes, including soybeans, for domestic consumption and for export.
The waterways industry and stakeholders are requesting that the governors of Missouri and Illinois seek a presidential disaster declaration, removing bureaucratic impediments and allowing USACE to take emergency actions to keep navigation moving. First, the USACE needs to accelerate the process for removal of rock pinnacles in the Mississippi at Grand Tower and Thebes, Ill. This removal is essential work, but under normal procedures would not be completed until February 2013. However, more immediate action is needed to avert a crisis. In addition, the USACE needs to maintain water flows from the Missouri River to sustain navigation on the middle Mississippi until the rock clearing work is completed.
The crisis was created by this year’s historic drought conditions and will come to a head when the Corps proceeds with plans to stop the release of water from dams on Nov. 22 in accordance with its predetermined Annual Operating Plan for the Missouri River.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) is urging all of its members to contact their congressional delegations and, if appropriate, their governors offices. ASA is also working with other agricultural and waterways industry partners to address this issue with the Administration and Congress.