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Mississippi River rock blasting expands

Keywords: Tags  Mississippi River, rock removal, Thebes, Army Corp of Engineers

CHICAGO — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ rock removal efforts on the Mississippi River have been expanded to Grand Tower, Ill., about 31 miles north of Thebes, Ill.

The agency was given permission to accelerate work to remove obstacles in the river that have been uncovered by low water levels due to the Midwest drought that began last summer.

Operators of 9-foot-draft vessels and the shippers they service have had to reduce loads by up to one-half, sending costs soaring for shippers of such commodities as ferrous scrap, steel, metallurgical coal and limestone (, Jan. 9).

Rock removal at Grand Tower began Jan. 29. To ensure safety during the blasting work, the U.S. Coast Guard has implemented nightly closures of the channel there from midnight to noon through Feb. 8.

“The Grand Tower project will yield permanent improvements to the Mississippi,” Col. Chris Hall, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ St. Louis District, said in a statement.

Work that began at Thebes on Dec. 17 has been extended to about Feb. 5 because the contractor discovered additional rock formations beneath the river sediment.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., since July to preserve depth and width.

The total amount of cargo transferred through the two locks closest to the blast-work sites declined year over year in December and in full-year 2012, compared with tonnages in the corresponding 2011 periods, statistics from the Army Corps of Engineers show.

Tons shipped through Mississippi Lock and Dam 25 fell 23 percent in December vs. the year-prior period, while total 2012 shipments fell 3.8 percent.

Tons passing through the Chain of Rocks Lock in December were off 22.1 percent year over year, while annual volume was off 4.1 percent.

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