DROUGHT IMPACT: Mississippi River Barge Traffic Affected

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Washington lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling on presidential action to keep barges moving on the Mississippi River.

They warn that without quick action to keep the barges moving, low water will threaten jobs that depend on the shipping corridor within two weeks.

The low water levels also create high anxiety close to home in Muscatine.

The Mississippi River is the backbone of the nation’s waterway system. But these days, there’s a burden along its path to the Gulf of Mexico. Water flow changes could leave barge traffic high and dry.

“We better look at this and set new priorities as to what’s needed and what’s wanted,” said John Oberhaus, a member of Iowa’s Mississippi River Parkway Commission.

The group, which met in Muscatine on Thursday, looks at ways to promote economic growth along the river corridor.

“The river corridor has so many implications for the people who live along it and do business on it,” said commission member Patsy Ramacitti.

Concern stems from reducing flow from the Missouri River to the Mississippi. Those low water levels could bring barge traffic to a standstill. River traffic will feel the impact sooner than later.

“The water not coming down the Missouri is going to further lower the Mississippi, which is at almost historical low levels,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, (R) Iowa.

On Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois, called on the Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to prevent any job loss or negative economic impact from low water.

Barge traffic has a direct impact on families all across the country. It affects everything from the price of bread to a gallon of gas.

Lawmakers are asking for presidential action to release water. That could keep barges moving with time running out. In just two weeks, water could be too shallow for barge traffic near St. Louis.

“Intervene with the Army Corps of Engineers, and keep traffic flowing on the Mississippi,” Sen. Grassley concluded.

River traffic that’s crucial for jobs and families in Iowa and Illinois.

Thanks to sister station WQAD for this story.