The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said contractors have completed the first phase of emergency work to remove rocks that have held up barge traffic in the drought-stricken Mississippi River.
Contractors have excavated about 365 cubic yards (279 cubic meters) of limestone from the river near the town of Thebes in southern Illinois, deepening the channel by about two feet, the Corps said in a statement today.
“The work has deepened the channel enough to successfully maintain navigation through this critical reach of the river,” Major General John Peabody, the Corps’ Mississippi Valley division commander, said in the statement.
Barge traffic for shippers including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. of Decatur, Illinois, has slowed on the river due to shallow water caused by the worst U.S. drought since the 1930s. About $2.8 billion worth of cargo, including grain, coal and fertilizer, moves along the Mississippi during a typical January, according to the American Waterways Operators, an Arlington, Virginia-based industry group. The group has called for more water to be released from reservoirs upstream from St. Louis if drought conditions worsen.