The Army Corps of Engineers has started releasing more water from Carlyle Lake in Illinois to help keep barges moving along the Mississippi River.
Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Mike Peterson says they had a pretty good idea this summer’s brutal drought would cause big shipping problems in the fall and winter.
So, they held back water in Carlyle Lake, which is a little over 50 miles east of St. Louis, because it's one of the region's few reservoirs with a little extra water from rain.
But releasing the water is by no means a long-term fix, Peterson says; rather, it buys them an extra three weeks to pray for rain.
“There’s really only one thing that’s going to fix this long-term, and that is a lot more rain and some snow upstream,” Peterson says.
The much larger upstream reservoirs that feed the Missouri River, and subsequently the Mississippi River, are the center of a water war.
Several Midwestern Senators want the water to keep shipping moving, lawmakers from South Dakota want the water for use in the state’s oil fracking boom.
(Go here for St. Louis Public Radio’s Adam Allington’s in-depth report on the battle over water in up stream reservoirs.)
In tandem with releasing water from Carlyle Lake, the Corp of Engineers will also begin blasting rock pinnacles on a stretch of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.
“Those rock formations pose a risk to barges that, in other places on the river they hit some shoaling, they hit some sandy bottom, it’s not a catastrophe,” Peterson says. “But we want to make sure that no barges will hit these rock formations as we drop to historic lows.”
Peterson says blasting could begin as soon as this Tuesday.
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