The Army Corps of Engineers says its efforts to keep a crucial stretch of the Mississippi River open to barge traffic should help avert a shipping shutdown that river industry officials fear is imminent.
The corps said in recent weeks crews have made "fantastic" progress clearing bedrock from a channel near Thebes, Illinois. Shipping groups warned this week the waterway could drop to a point in which barge weight restrictions would have to be further tightened, effectively halting shipping. Officials with the river industry said if drafts are restricted to 8 feet or lower, many operators will stop shipping. National Weather Service hydrologists, as of Friday, forecast that the river at Thebes could drop to the 3-feet mark by next Thursday and continue falling to 1 foot by the end of this month.