The Hagstrom Report

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Ag groups urge help for Mississippi River navigation

The National Grain and Feed Association and other agriculture groups have sent President Barack Obama a letter urging him to maintain navigation on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Mo., and Cairo, Ill.

The groups urged Obama to direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “release measured, but sufficient, flows from Missouri River reservoirs to maintain a nine-foot navigation channel on the Mississippi River to sustain commercial navigation.”

Such releases are controversial in northern states, however, and the letter said that “if winter moisture does not materialize to adequately replenish the reservoirs, the Corps could consider releasing less water from the dams during the spring navigation season.”

The letter also urged Obama to waive federal acquisition rules to expedite the agency’s contract-award procedures and order that the Corps take immediate action to remove rock formations near Grand Tower and Thebes, Ill., which it said present significant hazards to navigation.

Otherwise, the letter noted, the Corps has indicated it would take until as late as the end of March to complete the project. However, the letter emphasized that, “while removal of these rock pinnacles should be helpful, this action in-and-of-itself is not expected to fully alleviate the need for Missouri River flows to maintain navigation.”