The Army Corps of Engineers say they will not change their position on releasing water from the Missouri River to help keep navigation afloat on the Mississippi River.
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy responded to requests from nine Mississippi River state Senators, who requested the Corps release additional Missouri River Water.
In her letter provided by Senator Claire McCaskill's office, Darcy wrote that the Corps does not have authority to change its Missouri River management strategy, and doing so would have negative effects on upper Missouri River states. Furthermore, she adds that the Missouri River reservoirs could not provide enough water to ease the Mississippi’s low water conditions.
In a written statement, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said Missouri businesses depend on commercial navigation.
"Missouri businesses and jobs depend on our ability to continue commercial navigation along the Mississippi--and the dropping water level can't be ignored. The Army Corps is now saying that we can continue navigation without increased flows from the Missouri, and we should hold them accountable if that prediction doesn't pan out. I plan to keep getting input from all stakeholders on this issue and will continue working to ensure that Missouri's economy isn't damaged in the coming weeks and months," McCaskill wrote.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt was among the Senators who wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to evaluate whether to declare an economic disaster on the Mississippi River.
“That, I believe, could allow the Corps to do what was necessary on the Missouri to get water to the Mississippi,” Blunt said.
Water levels on the Mississippi River are not dropping as quickly as originally forecasted.
Current projections indicate water levels will remain high enough for navigation at least through December 23.
In Darcy’s letter, she indicated the Corps is expediting its contracting process to remove rock outcrops in southern Illinois that threaten navigation. Darcy expects rock blasting will begin this month instead of late January, as originally predicted.
The Corps is taking an additional step to keep the navigation channel open: dredges are now removing 21 sediment shoals on the middle Mississippi River.