Reuters released an article today that assessed the economic damage the Midwest drought is having on the Mississippi River, and thus affecting the flow of valuable materials such as chemical, petroleum, and agriculture products from St. Louis to the southern-most tip of Illinois.
With Mississippi water levels at historic lows, businesses are concerned if they lower any more, they may have to halt all commercial shipping traffic by this weekend.
In a joint statement from two industry groups, the American Waterways Operators and the Waterways Council Inc., such an occurrence would cause:
“(M)ore than 8,000 jobs, cost $54 million in wages and benefits, and halt the movement of 7.2 million tons of commodities valued at $2.8 billion, the two industry groups said.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, is doing its best to increase water levels by removing rock obstruction that is creating a bottleneck for river traffic near Thebes and Grand Tower, Illinois.
While helpful, projects such as these require time businesses and communities don’t have, and also don’t necessarily cure the Mississippi River’s sensitivity toward weather changes the drought has caused.
What is making matters far worse is the Corps are under orders to reduce the flow of the Missouri River into the Mississippi River, which is especially damaging since the confluence of these two rivers (pictured above) is conveniently located just north of St. Louis.
Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers, told the New York Times in a November 26 article that, “We do not have the legal authority to operate the Missouri River solely for the benefits of the Mississippi River.”
While it’s common these days for external factors such as climate change to shoulder the blame for the socioeconomic consequences resultant from natural disasters such as droughts, it appears at least in this case, that bureaucratic legalese is far more directly responsible.