The Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this week that it will proceed with plans to reduce the flow from an upper Missouri River reservoir. This action will be taken despite growing concern that this action will worsen low-water problems on the Mississippi River.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio, National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Research and Development Paul Bertels addressed the situation saying, "We oppose the curtailing of water discharges from the Missouri River until the corps has fixed the issues presented by rock pinnacles in the Mississippi River, thus decreasing the negative impact of lower water levels for traffic using the waterway."
Corps officials expect to cut the flow from the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota from 17,000 cubic feet per second to 12,000 cubic feet per second starting around Nov. 23. This action is being taken as a drought-related conservation measure. Reducing the amount of water that the Missouri River will feed into the Mississippi River at the confluence just north of St. Louis will lower the pool of the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., potentially halting barge traffic.
Exacerbating existing low-water issues, this action would negatively impact many sectors of agribusiness that use the river to transport grains and agricultural inputs. Low water levels require lighter barges, delay deliveries and create exposure to equipment.
Corps officials have undertaken efforts such as dredging, river structures and rock removal to keep the Mississippi open for as long as possible.
While the corps normally reduces the water flow on the upper Missouri River reservoirs at this time of year, severe drought has already led to severely low water levels.