obstacles on the Mississippi River is essential, according to
the American Iron and Steel Institute, which on Friday called
on members of Congress to back letters drafted by peer elected
leaders urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hasten
"Removal of rock in this area is essential for normal barge
traffic to continue within the expected extremely low water
levels that will result from the scheduled water flow shutoff
from the Missouri River," it said, urging members of Congress
in an e-mail to sign on to letters from Sen. Thomas Harkin (D.,
Iowa), Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R.,
Ill.) asking the assistant secretary of the Army to direct the
Army Corps to accelerate the process for removing rock
pinnacles in the river at Grand Tower, Ill., and Thebes,
The movement of commodities,
including scrap, steel, iron ore and metallurgical coal, has
been constrained this year because low water levels have
prevented barges from loading at full draft. Smaller, more
frequent shipments mean higher costs for shippers, and the
situation is expected to worsen next month.
Mike Petersen, spokesman for the
Army Corps St. Louis District, told AMM that his
agency has been dredging the middle section of the river from
Hannibal, Mo., to Cairo, Ill., nonstop since July. "We have
regular contact with industry," he said. "We are talking more
often right now."
Peterson highlighted the
complexity of the problem. "The rock pinnacles are at roughly
negative-5 feet at the Thebes gauge," he said. "Its a
natural formation, and you cannot dredge that. Weve tried
grinding and we werent getting results. We (must)
contract with someone to blast it. ... (The goal) is to remove
the rock safely."
Nick Nichols, manager of the St.
Louis Port Authority, agreed that the task wont be easy.
"Product is moving, but water is decreasing in the channel," he
said. "The (Army) Corps of Engineers is dredging some more, but
there is only so much they can do."
As the river recedes, authorities will continue to
coordinate with industry to light-load the barges, Nichols
said. Steel coils and scrap move through the docks in and
around St. Louis.; some of those docks now have water too low
to load barges, he added.