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Mississippi River: Shipping companies ask US government to dynamite riverbed

The companies say water levels in the drought-stricken Mississippi could fall too low for commercial traffic by mid-December.

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A shipping barge navigates down the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa in late April 2012. (Faine Greenwood/GlobalPost)

River shipping companies asked President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency today to declare an emergency and allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to blow up part of the riverbed near the Illinois towns of Thebes and Grand Tower, the Wall Street Journal reported. The move would deepen the Mississippi River shipping channel there.

Companies that carry heating oil, fertilizer, grain and other goods along the Mississippi said commercial traffic could grind to a halt by mid-December if steps aren’t taken to keep the water levels in the drought-stricken Mississippi high enough, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The companies also joined the commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Mike Strain, in asking the Corps to stop reducing water flows from a reservoir into the Missouri River, which pours into the Mississippi River, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Each year, the outflows are cut to maintain enough water in the upper Missouri River basin after winter flooding.

"It is critical that the president take immediate action to ensure grain and other products can be moved to maintain this economic lifeline," Strain said in a statement, according to the New Orleans Time-Picayune. "There is a growing demand for our products, and if farmers are unable to ship their commodities, it will ultimately lead to higher prices for the consumer. That's the last thing families need right now."

The last time the Corps blasted the river’s rocks was during the drought of 1988 and 1989, the Wall Street Journal reported.

More from GlobalPost: The drylands: exporting America’s drought
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121127/mississippi-river-shipping-companies-dynamite-drought