By: Christine Souders
Head a few hours south and you'll see the Mississippi River isn't looking so mighty these days. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers says the river is at critically low levels. So it's threatening to bring barge operations to a halt.
That could make corn, grain, coal, and petroleum prices skyrocket. Lawmakers from Mississippi River states and the Army Corps of Engineers, met in Washington on Thursday afternoon to talk about ways to bring levels back up.
So what does the river drought down south mean for the Quad Cities? It's kind of like a catch 22.
Alter Logistics is a local company that coordinates barge traffic along the river, and the Company's President Larry Daily said if St. Louis shuts down in the next two weeks, billions of dollars are in jeopardy for companies relying on the Upper Mississippi to transport goods.
"Just in the months of December and January, that's like 7 billion dollars worth cargo that won't get through there," said Alter Logistic's Larry Daily who says the situation down south needs to get straighten out fast.
"If you can't get past St. Louis to get to New Orleans, all of this extra corn and soy beans we grow up here that we export to the world doesn't have a market."
Which could have a ripple effect not only on transporting goods, but also on employers.
"There are 450,000 jobs in the Midwest that are associated with putting things on the river, and taking things off the river, and every one of those is going to feel a pinch."
And the Army Corps of Engineers in the Quad Cities says there's little we can do to help the Lower Mississippi, without putting our locks and dams at risk.
"If we raised the dam, we would lose our pool and a little bit more water would go down south, but it wouldn't be enough to impact it. Plus we'd lose our pool here and we'd have no navigation up here, so it'd be a catch 22," said Ron Fournier of the Rock Island District Corps of Engineer.
The Army Corps of Engineers say they only shut down the locks and dams here in extreme cases. The last time they had to shut down because of low levels was in the 1980's.