Due to a drought that has caused the water level in the Mississippi River to dwindle, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun adding water to the river, increasing releases from Carlyle Lake in Illinois.
The water level had gotten so low that rock formations near Thebes, Ill., were causing navigational hazards to barges. Though the waterway remains tough to navigate, officials remain hopeful that restrictions on barge traffic won't be necessary.
The extra water from Carlyle Lake is expected to add six inches of depth to the area by Thebes as early as Dec. 24. In addition to increasing releases into the river, the Corps has blasted 890 cubic yards of limestone from along the riverbed to widen the passage, and officials have been dredging the river since the middle of summer.
"With the Mississippi River watershed receiving less rain than
forecasted, we are working to provide the water depth needed at a time
when inches make a difference," Maj. Gen. John Peabody of the Corps of Engineers said in a statement. "We'll continue to work
closely with the navigation industry and our partners in the U.S. Coast
Guard to keep the vital artery for commerce open."
According to the Corps, the Mississippi River Valley and the Mississippi River Basin are facing what could be the worst drought in five decades and that this could simply be the first year of a lengthy drought. Previously, Corps officials met with Illinois state and local representatives to talk about further actions to alleviate the problem. At the meeting, Peabody told the assembled politicians that the Corps has been ready to spring into action.
“We’ve been preparing for this since early summer, which means continuous collaboration with our partners the U.S.
Coast Guard and the navigation industry to help provide a safe and reliable channel on the greatest, navigable
watershed in the world,” Peabody said in a statement.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that if we do have any interruptions, it will be short in duration as we continue to
maintain a safe and reliable navigation channel."
- Jon Ross