Earlier,the USACE had warned that the river could become unnavigable by January 15. However, efforts by the USACE to blast away rocks near Thebes, Il. (see image above) have successfully bought more time for barge shipping, according to a press release from the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) The river will now likely stay open through January.
After January, the future of Mississippi River traffic is still as murky as the river's waters, and that makes planning difficult for river captains and shippers.
"If a barge has a 14-day transit time from loading to the low points on the river, barge operators and their customers must make plans based on the forecasted water depth at the time of the barge's arrival at the bottleneck," said Michael Toohey, WCI President & CEO in a press release. "That is why longer-term assurance that barges can reliably load to a 9-foot draft even beyond January is absolutely critical,"
The AWO, WCI and other concerned groups are urging the government to open upstream reservoirs to help keep the river open. However, government officials fear that releasing the water now could make managing the river more difficult later if the drought continues into 2013.