Request for contacting Congress about Mississippi River
We respectfully urge that authority provided under Section 501(b) of the Stafford Act be used immediately to declare an emergency, and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers specifically be directed to:
- Release measured, but sufficient, flows from Missouri River reservoirs dams to maintain a 9-foot navigation channel on the Mississippi River. Such efforts will sustain commercial navigation in anticipation of potential releases of less water during the spring navigation season if winter rains and snows do not materialize to adequately replenish these reservoirs.
- Waive federal acquisition rules to expedite the agency’s contract-award procedures and order that the Corps take immediate action to remove the rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes, Ill. Combined with reduced water levels, these rock formations – remnants from earlier blasting to clear the channel – present significant hazards to navigation. The Corps has indicated that absent such action, work would not begin until February 2013 and would take up to 60 days to complete – a totally unacceptable outcome given what is at stake. It is important to emphasize that while removal of these rocks should be helpful, this action in-and-of-itself is not expected to fully alleviate the need for Missouri River flows to maintain navigation.
The Mississippi River “superhighway” is essential to U.S. agriculture, serving as the primary means for transporting essential agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, and providing access to domestic and international markets for U.S. farmers’ production. Navigation during the next few months is particularly critical for securing supplies for the 2013 planting season and marketing of the 2012 grain and oilseed crop.
During a typical weather year, nearly 60 percent of U.S. grain and oilseed exports – including more than 2.5 billion bushels of corn and soybeans – typically transit the Mississippi River. Even during this drought-plagued crop year, the United States is projected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to export more than 65 million metric tons of grains (primarily corn, sorghum, wheat and rice) and nearly 37 million metric tons of soybeans. U.S. agricultural exports, including value-added products such as meat, represent one of the few positive contributors to the U.S. balance of trade. Now is the most critical time for such exports, as the United States even in a drought year represents the principal source of corn and soybean exports prior to the onset of the South American harvest next spring and summer.