Both of Missouri's U.S. Senators — Republican Sen. Roy Blunt and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill — as well as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon have called on the Army Corps of Engineers to act and ensure navigation along the Mississippi River is not negatively impacted by the Army Corps' plan to divert water away from the river, according to a news release from McCaskill's office.
The plan, which was enacted Friday despite an outcry from politicians and business owners alike, diverts water to the Mississippi by reducing outflow of the Missouri River at the Gavins Point Damn near Yankton, S.D., in order to protect the Missouri River basin from ongoing drought conditions. Flow will be reduced from 17,000 cubic feet per second to 12,000 cubic feet per second by Dec. 11.
The Missouri River flows into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis.
Opponents of the plan claim the reduction could harm shipping lanes in the river and jeopardize the economies of areas downstream.
“We’ve got numerous businesses that depend on being able to ship their goods and services along the Mississippi to get them to market,” McCaskill said in the release. “Jobs depend on this critical access."
McCaskill, Blunt and 75 other members of Congress sent a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army Corps' assistant secretary for civil works, last week to voice their opposition to the plan.
"We are requesting immediate action to prevent an impending disruption to inland waterways navigation caused in large part by the 2012 drought particularly in the Missouri River Basin," the letter stated. "A very large share of the flows into the Mississippi River at St. Louis are derived from the Missouri River."
Nixon also sent a letter to Darcy calling for the Corps to find other methods of alleviating the drought's impact on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
"The 2012 drought has caused a significant impact on water levels on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers," Nixon said in the letter. "With the continuing and projected lack of adequate precipitation, additional barge traffic restrictions on — or even closure of — the Mississippi River channel become imminent possibilities. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to avert potential economic disaster on this vital avenue American farmers use to get their goods into the world market."
A majority of the state is under moderate drought conditions, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Parts of the state, including much of Boone County, are experiencing "severe" drought.
As a result, the Mississippi River was measured Monday in St. Louis by the National Weather Service at -1.5 feet below average, the lowest it has been since 2006.