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.
Updated at 2:20 pm with comments from Gov. Jay Nixon.
Federal officials say they're confident that they'll be able to keep a crucial stretch of the drought-starved Mississippi River open to barge traffic and avoid a shipping shutdown that the industry fears is imminent.
This year's drought delivered a pricey punch to US aquaculture, the business of raising fish like bass and catfish for food. Worldwide, aquaculture has grown into a $119 billion industry, but the lack of water and high temperatures in 2012 hurt many U.S. fish farmers who were already struggling to compete on a global scale.
The barge industry again raised concerns Wednesday about the impact low water levels on the Mississippi River will have on shipping.
According to a new report from American Waterways Operators, low water could affect more than 8,000 jobs along the river. The group's spokeswoman, Ann McCulloch, says the situation isn't expected to improve any time soon.
"We're definitely worried about the immediate impact if commerce is severely impaired," said McCulloch. "We're at that stage already and at this point it can only get worse."