Shippers say shutdown of barge traffic on Mississippi River expected in January

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 2, 2013 - The American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) released revised data on the economic impact of an effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge traffic in the month of January. Earlier data examined the impacts between December and January.

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According to their analysis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' latest weather and water forecast for the Mississippi River near Thebes, Illinois, suggests that commerce on the river could come to an effective halt between January 5 and 15. The Corps is operating rock pinnacle blasts near Thebes in an effort to increase water flow.

“As these new economic numbers clearly indicate, our nation's shippers, farmers, manufacturers, operators, and consumers, and working Americans with jobs now at risk, will be hard hit in the first month of the New Year unless water is provided now to avert a shutdown,” said Tom Allegretti, AWO's President & CEO. 

The majority of towboats in the Mississippi require a 9-foot draft to operate, while some towing vessels can operate at 8- or 7-foot drafts. Shippers continue to urge the Administration to release water from Missouri River reservoirs to avert an effective shutdown of the Mississippi River to barge transportation. Although the Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard have said they will not officially close the river, the AWO and WCI claim the falling water levels and a lack of sustained water will preclude navigation because towboats will be physically unable to transit the area between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois.

Their economic data suggests that during January 7-31, the potential supply-chain disruption in Mississippi River states could affect more than 8,000 jobs.

“The uncertainty of this deteriorating situation for the nation's shippers is having as much of an impact as the lack of water itself,” said Michael J. Toohey, WCI's President & CEO. “The Administration must direct the Corps to release enough water to sustain navigation on the Mississippi River now or time will have run out and an effective shutdown could remain in place for weeks,” he continued.  


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