The Army Corps of Engineers began shutting down flow from a South Dakota reservoir which feeds into Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis.
The overall lack of water is expected to cause big problems moving freight on the river.
The Army Corps is holding back water at the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, S.D., to conserve for the next Missouri River shipping season. But the Mississippi River needs that water right now to keep the shipping channel at St. Louis least nine-feet deep.
Major General John Peabody of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the Corps can’t act to benefit one party, at the expense of others.
“The truth is, without the dam you would probably have, basically a trickle at this time of year anyway, because we would have not storage capability. So actually you’re getting more than you would have if not for the projects of the Corps of Engineers,” says Peabody.
Major shippers on the Mississippi River fear a halt to barge traffic as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins reducing the flow.
Craig Philip is the CEO of Ingram Barge Company based in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Water-borne commerce on this key stretch of the mid-Mississippi, between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois will be severely affected in early December as a result of the current low water levels and plans to reduce the flows of water from dams on the upper Missouri [River],” Philip said.
The Army Corps has been dredging the Mississippi almost nonstop for months to maintain a navigable channel throughout this year’s record drought.
Despite their efforts scores barges still ran aground, halting and delaying traffic on a system which moves $180 billion in freight each year.
Compounding the issue of scarce water is the fact North Dakota’s leaders are eager to tap millions of gallons from those same reservoirs for use in the state’s oil fracking boom.