Ol' Man River far from rolling

Posted: November 28, 2012

ST. LOUIS - A group of U.S. senators will ask President Obama for an emergency declaration in an effort to keep barges moving on the drought-riddled Mississippi River, a spokesman for Sen. Claire McCaskill said Tuesday.

Senators from Mississippi River states are seeking an emergency directive that would increase the flow of water from an upper Missouri River dam and expedite removal of rock formations in the middle Mississippi River that impede barge traffic during periods of low water.

At issue is the area of the Mississippi River between where the Missouri and Ohio rivers merge into it - roughly the 180 miles between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill. Barge navigation on the middle Mississippi becomes particularly tricky if the channel dips to around 9 feet of depth. Currently it is about 13 feet deep and National Weather Service hydrologists predict that it will drop to around the 9-foot mark by around Dec. 10.

Goods such as grain, corn, coal, petroleum and chemicals are typically shipped along the Mississippi River, in part because the volume is so high that using trucks or trains would be far more costly.

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