CHICAGO The U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers released water again late last week from
Carlyle Lake, a reservoir along the Kaskaskia River near St.
Louis, to support the continuation of navigation on the
It was the second release in
less than two weeks; the first occurred Dec. 15. The releases
were in response to the drought that has kept river levels too
lowresulting in less-than-optimal drafts in many
casesto efficiently operate tugboats and barges.
The low water level has already
had an impact on some ferrous scrap markets as well as the
ferroalloys market (
amm.com, Dec. 7).
The latest projections indicate
that the most recent water release, along with the current
weather forecast, will cause the river gauge at Thebes in
southern Illinois to drop to below 10 feet around Jan. 7, below
9 feet around Jan. 15 and below 8 feet around Jan. 23,
according to Deborah Colbert, spokeswoman for the Waterways
Council Inc. (WCI).
The Army Corps has suggested
that its rock pinnacle removal efforts, begun Dec. 17 at
Thebes, "may begin to have an impact on controlling depths
around Jan. 20, but that is still to be determined," she
When the river gauge drops below
a certain point, the Coast Guard reduces draft by 1 foot to
avoid the grounding of vessels, but most towboats cannot
operate at less than a 9-foot draft so the majority of
navigation "will cease around mid-January without more water,"
Continued uncertainty regarding
what drafts will be available "continues to choke freight
movements just as much as the low water itself," she said.
"Without certainty that the water will be there when barges
reach Thebes, shippers continue to light-load based on
worst-case scenarios or continue to cancel trips
While Army Corps contractors are
blasting the rock pinnacles, the channel at Thebes remains
closed for 16 hours per day, with both north- and southbound
vessels backing up.
WCI, the American Waterways
Operators (AWO) and others continue to press elected national
and state officials for assurances that water will be there
when barge shipments arrive in order to prevent further
"Manufacturers ... have been
feeling the impacts of this emergency with canceled orders,
lost exports to market and higher (costs)," AWO president and
chief executive officer Tom Allegretti said, adding that unless
a shutdown is averted "those impacts will increase
Commodity volume through the
Chain of Rocks Lock and Dam 27 north of St. Louisthe
busiest dam on the rivertotaled 5.02 million tons in
October, the latest figures available, down 7.5 percent from
5.43 million tons in the same month a year earlier.