Heavy equipment is being used along the Mississippi River to remove rocks that could get in the way of shipping. Many Iowa farmers rely on the river to move their crops across the country.
Mike Petersen is a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We’re dealing with an unprecedented drought. We haven’t seen anything like this in decades,” Petersen said. “So, we’re in a stretch of the river where there’s a natural rock formation. And as the river’s surface level drops, those rocks affect the 9-foot navigation channel we’re required to provide by Congress.”
The rock removal is being done along a six-mile stretch south of St. Louis. “We’re using excavators because the river is so low and it’s giving us access with heavy equipment to tear the rock right out of the bottom of the river. So we’re having a lot of success with that and that’s reduced the need for blasting,” Petersen said.
Contractors from Iowa and Ohio are working on the project, which is expected to be finished later this month.
A union representing barge workers called the Waterways Council recently predicted ice and low water levels would halt barge traffic on the Mississippi. The council has called on the Corps of Engineers to release water from Missouri River reservoirs to eventually increase levels on the Mississippi. The Corps has rejected that request, saying there are longterm concerns about a persistent drought.