USACE Forecast Could Result in Earlier Then Expected Effective
Closure of Mississippi River
Waterways Council Release
26 December 2012
Late Christmas Eve, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advised
industry of the most current 28-day weather and water forecast for
the Mississippi River area near Thebes, Illinois, south of St.
Louis, where rock pinnacle removal work is taking place. The
forecast suggests that commerce on the Mississippi River could
come to an effective halt earlier than expected in the New Year,
around January 3 or 4. Earlier forecasts had suggested that
the congressionally authorized nine-foot navigation channel could
remain in operation until perhaps the middle of January.
The latest forecast calls for the Mississippi River gauge at
Thebes to be at 3 feet on or around January 3-4, with vessel
drafts limited to 8 feet. The forecast for the river gauge to fall
to 2 feet will be on or around January 12-13, allowing only a
7-foot maximum vessel draft. It is estimated that the river will
reach a reading of 1 foot on or around January 19, which equates
to 6 feet of navigable depth. The majority of towboats
require a 9-foot draft to operate and only a very small number of
towing vessels can operate at 8-or 7-foot drafts.
Stakeholders continue to urge the Administration to release a
minimal amount of water from the Missouri River reservoirs (4,000
cfs or 1% of current storage in the reservoir system) to avert
this effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge
transportation. While the Corps and the Coast Guard have said that
they have no plans to close the river, this latest forecast and
falling water levels will preclude navigation because towboats
will be unable to transit the “bottleneck reach” between St. Louis
and Cairo, Illinois.
WCI and AWO leaders met last week with White House staff and other
senior Administration officials, and continue to implore them and
Members of Congress and the Corps to release additional water to
sustain navigation on the Mississippi River, including utilization
of Missouri River storage. Discussions continue and we will
keep you informed as developments occur.