The worst drought in decades has slowly eviscerated the mighty Mississippi River.
Monday morning both U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and freshly sworn in U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Belleville) got a firsthand look at work being done to keep the waterway commercially viable to shippers.
Both lawmakers say, for now, they’re cautiously optimistic the river will stay navigable thanks to extra water being released from Carlyle Lake, which is a little over 50 miles east of St. Louis, and contractors blasting away rock pinnacles on a stretch near Cairo, Ill. that threatened to grind shipping to a hault.
Durbin says President Obama has taken a personal, and ongoing, interest in the river.
“Two weeks ago he raised this question, ‘What’s going on with the Mississippi River?’” Durbin says. “At which point I got in touch with the White House and we started working with the agencies. And their basic message to me was do what it takes to keep that river open.”
Durbin says for the time being there is no need to release water from the Missouri River, which had been called for by both himself and host of other elected officials across the Midwest, in order to keep barges moving. He added that the Army Corps of Engineers is holding back a little extra water in reservoirs upstream should the situation take a sudden turn for the worse.
Enyart (D-Belleville) says interest in water levels slowly dropping to near record lows is by no means isolated to the Midwest.
“Corn and soybeans that are coming out of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa today, coming down the Mississippi, are the world’s food supply for the next 60 days,” Enyart says. “And there is no other corn, no other soybeans, ready to be harvested, ready to go into the market.”
Officials with both the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard say the only real way to alleviate low water on the river is rain, and lots of it.
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