Mississippi River blasted to keep economy afloat - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mississippi River blasted to keep economy afloat

(WMC-TV) - Keeping a big chunk of the economy afloat is the goal along the Mississippi River, where there is a threat of a shipping shutdown.

In the last two years the Mississippi River has hit extremes in Memphis, from one of the highest levels ever recorded in 2011 flooding, to one of the lowest levels one year later. Now, the low levels are affecting commerce and that could push congress to act immediately.

"The drought conditions of last year have lowered water levels to the point where we have to take emergency action," said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, along with representatives from the farming industry, are trying to figure out what can be done to avert a crisis on the Mighty Mississippi.

"You really don't value something until you are at risk of losing it," said Illinois Representative John Shimkus.

The Army Corps of Engineers is doing something it has not done anywhere since 1989. It is blasting and removing limestone pinnacles from the bottom of the river just south of Cape Girardeau, in hopes of keeping the navigation channel at least nine feet deep.

The trouble is that blasting the river means it will be closed to traffic for 16 hours each day, for about one month. If that does not work, there is always a plan B.

"Some of the options would involve appealing to the White House in terms of an executive decision about the release of water from other places. It gets very complex, it could involve a battle in court before it is all over, I hope it doesn't," said Senator Durbin.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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