Businesses that work and ship on the Mississippi River are seeking a presidential declaration keep water flowing out of reservoirs on the Missouri River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closes dams in South Dakota at this time every year to store water to maintain levels later in the spring and summer.
The Missouri River accounts for roughly 60 percent of the water flowing by St. Louis. In a drought-year like this year, George Foster of St. Louis’ J.B. Marine says reducing river levels would risk closing the shipping channel.
“This business such as mine is repeated here in the St. Louis area and in communities up and down the river—from Cairo, Illinois up to Chicago, Illinois,” Foster says. "Small family owned businesses, midsize businesses that can be dramatically affected by this low water.”
Top brass from the Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard met with regional stakeholders down at the Mississippi River in St. Louis on Friday.
On top of record-low water levels, the move to stop the flow upriver on the Missouri River could potentially shut down barge navigation south of the confluence as early as next month.
Major General John Peabody is the Commander of the U.S. Army Corps Mississippi Valley Division and says the Corps is well aware of the risks.
“The bottom line is there are more demands for water on the Missouri River than there is water available to go around year after year,” Peabody says. “Some years, you have too much water, like last year. Other years, you don’t have as much as you’re used to like this year.”
Peabody has ordered the release of water from reservoirs in Minnesota; he says that should add a slight bump of 3 to 6 inches in St. Louis.
The Army Corps is also planning to dynamite rock pinnacles that cause navigation difficulties around the vicinity of Thebes, Ill., when the water is low.
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