The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is open to expedited dynamiting of Mississippi River rock formations and increasing the flow from a tributary to prevent barge traffic from being curtailed, Senator Tom Harkin said.
“They’re hopeful they can start on this in December,” Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, told reporters today after a meeting in Washington with Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works and the head of the Corps.
Darcy didn’t speak with reporters after meeting with lawmakers, and Corps officials didn’t immediately comment on Harkin’s comment.
Mississippi River barge traffic is slowing as the worst drought in five decades and a seasonal dry period are pushing water levels to a near-record low, prompting shippers, including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), to seek alternatives. Harkin said lawmakers today will ask the Corps to assess the impact of water released from the Missouri River, which may be completed within the next week.
Lawmakers and shippers have urged President Barack Obama to declare an emergency, which would allow the blasting to begin at the same time the Corps releases water from the Missouri, Harkin said after the meeting.
Asked about the requests, White House spokesman Jay Carney today said the administration is exploring “all possible options” to maintain traffic on the river.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who participated in the meeting, also said the Corps of Engineers is open to expedited work.
“They seemed to understand the gravity of the problem, and we talked about speeding up the work that needs to be done to blow the rock formations so that we can get more water flowing,” she said.