U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Friday announced that he will convene a meeting of stakeholders – including Senators from states bordering the Mississippi River, state and local officials and representatives from industries such as agriculture and shipping – for a briefing from the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss navigation on the Mississippi River through means other than releasing additional water from the Missouri River.
Durbin also announced that the Army Corps expects the removal of rock pinnacles will begin this month. A revised Mississippi River forecast released yesterday showed that the water along the Mississippi will likely not reach the 9-foot level needed by commercial navigation until Dec. 29 – weeks later than originally projected.
"The Army Corps believes that we can maintain navigation on the Mississippi through means other than the release of water from the Missouri River. I hope they are right and I want them to meet with those directly impacted by this challenge," Durbin said. "At our request, the Corps has expedited the process of removing rock pinnacles to improve navigation. The next step is for the Corps to brief industry leaders and local stakeholders which is why I will be convening this meeting. We must do everything we can to reduce the likelihood of serious disruption to traffic along the river."
In a Friday letter responding to Durbin's request for information in the impact that releasing water from the Missouri River would have on both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the Army Corps stated that the combination of more favorable rain forecasts, "rock pinnacle removal, dredging, Upper Mississippi River releases, and the limited Missouri River flows currently authorized are expected to be sufficient to sustain navigation on the Middle Mississippi River without additional releases from the Missouri River" system. They also estimate that releasing additional water from the Missouri now would "negatively affect 2013 Mississippi River navigation."
In addition, the Army Corps outlined various negative consequences to the Missouri River Basin if additional water was released, including reduction in production of hydroelectricity, endangering drinking water supplies, increasing irrigation costs, among others.
Last week, Durbin convened a meeting between the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, representatives from the office of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, D-Ill., and four other Senators to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the job loss and negative impact on the region's economy that could be caused by low water levels on the Mississippi River. The Corps announced in the meeting that they would expedite the demolition of rock pinnacles that will help keep water and goods moving on the Mississippi River. Additional Senators attending the meeting included: U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.