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.
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.
"As the river levels drop river depth decreases and the river banks recede. As a result the fleeting areas (areas where barges are picked up and dropped off) move closer to the channel. This makes for tight quarters while vessels navigate the river."
Credit via Flickr/TeamSaintLouis (Army Corps of Engineers)
Updated 2:10 p.m. with information about excavation and blasting.
Updated at 4:45 p.m. to include comments from Jody Farhat of the Corps of Engineers.
The amount of water flowing into the lower Missouri River will be increased this week because of concerns about colder temperatures, but the increase isn't likely to boost the level of the Mississippi River downstream.
An updated Mississippi River forecast is predicting that low-water levels will likely linger throughout the winter. The forecast exacerbates concerns that shipping may be impacted along a key stretch near St. Louis.
The latest outlook by National Weather Service Hydrologist Mark Fuchs shows that without significant rain, the river at St. Louis will likely fall to dangerously low levels by the end of December
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.