Falling water levels of Mississippi River could halt shipping

By WEEK Reporter

Falling water levels of Mississippi River could halt shipping

January 3, 2013 Updated Jan 3, 2013 at 2:27 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- The record drought of 2012 is continuing into 2013 and now there is big trouble on the Mississippi River.

Water levels are so low shipping could grind to a halt by week's end. In some places, water levels have dropped 10 feet in six months.

Near St. Louis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are dredging and blasting the river bottom to help keep shipping lanes open.

Everything from oil to cement to chemicals, along with 60 percent of US grain exports, move down the Mississippi.

"We're already hearing about potential layoffs at manufacturing facilities... waterside and landside facilities and uh just for January alone we're estimating that at least 8,000 jobs will be affected," said Debra Colbert of Waterways Council, Inc.

Some shippers are calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily release water from the Missouri River to raise levels on the Mississippi.