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AGRIBUSINESS: Council Upset Over Mississippi River Corps Inaction

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Barge traffic on the Mississippi River is still afloat, but might sink by the end of next week. That's according to new data out from American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, Inc. 

It shows that a supply-chain disruption between January 7 and 31 could affect more than 8,000 jobs with over $54 million in wages and benefits. The trade groups also claim such a disruption would directly impact just over 7 million MT of commodities worth $2.8 billion. The Waterways Council says this uncertainty over shipping is as bad as the lack of water; if the Missouri Reservoirs aren't released, they say the river could effectively shut down for weeks.

River condition forecasts near Thebes, Illinois, show commerce could come to a complete halt within the next 10 days. At that time, boats will only have 8 feet of clearance (called a "draft") between the riverbed and waterline. Most towboats need a 9-foot draft to operate, which the river currently accommodates. However because some boats can work with an 8- or even 7-foot draft, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard maintain that they won't officially close the river. AWO and Waterways Council say the falling water levels and a lack of sustained water will both preclude navigation between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois.