A top Army Corps of Engineers official says she believes the low Mississippi River will remain open to shipping, partly justifying the agency's decision to not release more water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi.
Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, in a Thursday letter obtained by The Associated Press, tells lawmakers from Mississippi River states that the agency won't be scaling back the amount of Missouri River water it began withholding last month from the Mississippi.
Lawmakers and the barge industry had sought the extra water.
In a letter to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Secretary Darcy states that, “additional releases on the Missouri River would further deplete storage in the reservoir system, which currently is forecast to begin the 2013 runoff season 20 percent below the storage level specified by the reservoir system’s 12-year drought plan,” states Darcy.
“Based on current estimates for below average rainfall, releasing water for navigation for the Mississippi River would increase the 12-year drought storage shortfall.”
Darcy cites this week's revised Mississippi River forecast that shows the level of that waterway not dropping as quickly as feared. And she says the Corps is expediting the removal of massive, shipping-impeding rock formations in the Mississippi south of St. Louis.
A response from the barge industry group American Waterway Operators reiterated their concern that despite the Army Corps efforts to remove rock formations from the river bottom, and recent rains, the Mississippi River is still headed for an effective closure sometime around Christmas.
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