McCaskill, Colleagues Call for Action on Mississippi

| November 19, 2012
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of colleagues, including fellow Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to take action to ensure continued navigation along the Mississippi River, after concerns that the Army Corps’ plan to divert flow into that river might hurt the region’s economy.

“We’ve got numerous businesses that depend on being able to ship their goods and services along the Mississippi to get them to market,” McCaskill said. “Jobs depend on this critical access, and I’ll keep working to protect those jobs.”

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to reduce the flow of water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi River at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota from 17,000 cubic feet per second to 12,000 cubic feet per second, which could jeopardize river shipping lanes—adversely affecting the region’s economy.

The letter to Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, who heads the Army Corps of Engineers, asks the Corps to quickly demolish rock pinnacles around Thebes, Illinois, in order to ensure clear navigation of the Mississippi. It also requests that the current flow from the Missouri River be maintained.

“If the river channel is not maintained there will be a loss of jobs, income to many businesses and farmers, and an adverse impact to the economy,” the letter reads.

The letter to Assistant Secretary Darcy is available below.

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works

108 Army Pentagon

Room 3E446

Washington, DC 20310-0108

Dear Secretary Darcy:

We are requesting immediate action to prevent an impending disruption to inland waterways navigation caused in large part by the 2012 drought particularly in the Missouri River Basin. A very large share of the flows into the Mississippi River at St. Louis are derived from the Missouri River.

On or about November 23, 2012, the United States Army Corps of Engineers may begin to impound Missouri River water in accordance with the annual operating plan for the Missouri River. This action will lead to a crisis on the Mississippi River when commerce is interrupted due to low water conditions that prevent the maintenance of the congressionally-authorized 9-foot channel.

Fortunately, we understand that the Corps has the ability to remove impediments to navigation by demolishing rock pinnacles – particularly at Thebes, Illinois – in order to avert the looming crisis. We urge the Corps of Engineers to undertake this work as soon as possible. If authority can be found, we also request that the impoundment of Missouri River water be delayed until the rock work is completed so that navigation can be maintained. Our support for those flows is with an understanding that no other beneficial use would be seriously impacted and that any deficit of water for other various uses would be repaid from future navigation flows. We believe that the USACE Master Manual permits such deviations.

We need not tell you how vital the Mississippi River is to commerce both for agriculture and many other goods, including our ability to export our goods. If the river channel is not maintained, there will be a loss of jobs, income to many businesses and farmers, and an adverse impact to the economy of the region as a whole.

We encourage you to take action to preserve this crucial artery of commerce. We appreciate your consideration of this important issue.

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