04 January 2013 19:44 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Removal of submerged rocks has cleared an area of the upper Mississippi river for barge traffic for at least the next week and possibly through the end of January, a spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USAC) said on Friday.
Mike Petersen, a Corps spokesman, said water levels near a rocky area at Thebes in southern Illinois will remain above 10 feet for the next week, and more rock removal could add an additional two feet of depth.
Nine feet is the minimum depth for barge traffic in that area of the river, Petersen said.
“We’re guaranteeing the nine-foot depth for the next few weeks, though,” Petersen said.
Low water levels and underwater obstacles on the upper Mississippi river pose a major threat to barge traffic on the waterway, according to the US Coast Guard (USCG) and barge operators.
The low water stems from drought conditions in the US midwest this year. The existing crisis has been heightened further as USAC has started reducing water to the Mississippi from dams on the upper Missouri river.
The USCG and the USAC have begun removing rock formations, called pinnacles, and other river obstructions with explosives. One of the nation’s largest barge operators, Kirby, continues to work that area of the Mississippi, though a spokesman said the company’s barges are not handling full loads.
“We’re lightloading in that area,” said Steve Holcomb, Kirby spokesman. He added that Kirby usually doesn’t handle long barge chains on the upper Mississippi and needs only a seven-foot depth.
“We’re still operating there,” Holcomb added.
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