ST. LOUIS, Mo.--Low levels on the Mississippi River are again threatening the economy of states on the lower part of the river, like the Magnolia State. It's an area just south of St. Louis that has economists worried, traffic stifled, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under pressure to get the barges and ships that carry cargo up and down the water way moving again.
Officials say traffic is technically still flowing, but due to the drought this summer already making the water levels seriously low and ice that has frozen some of the upper portions, the level now is making travel dangerous enough that the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council are now saying that more limits on traffic are possible.
The prediction now is that by next week, most barges and ships won't be able to move. Anne McCullough, with American Waterways, said that will have a large impact on the economy of any state that has the Mississippi as a main transport route for goods. It will also affect the economy as a whole.
"Seven billion dollars in commodities-everything from key agricultural products, coal, petroleum-that need to reach manufacturing facilities up and down the river," she said. "That's in addition to jobs and wages that are at risk if commerce is not able to move."
The U.S. Army Corps is now under pressure to release water from the Missouri River to alleviate the problem. That's something they said they cannot do because the water there is needed for drinking and hydro-electric power.
Over the summer, at the peak of the drought, the Mississippi River levels got extremely low from Memphis to Vicksburg, with serious limits placed on commerce in that area. At that point it was possible for the Army Corps to dredge out portions of the river near Greenville and Memphis to keep traffic flowing.