Kentucky’s transportation infrastructure is severely threatened under a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Kentucky’s elected officials have taken notice. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is threatening to lower water levels on the Mississippi River even further which would dramatically impact commercial barge traffic between St. Louis, Mo. and Cairo, Ill. due to drought conditions throughout the mid west. Many Kentucky businesses rely on this vital waterway to ship petroleum, coal, sand and agriculture products to and from the state and the commercial barge industry itself is a major employer throughout the state.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take immediate action to delay the impoundment of water on the Missouri River and assist navigation by demolishing rock pinnacles in Grand Tower, Ill. and Thebes, Ill. This action would provide some temporary relief and ensure the Mississippi River remains at a depth suitable for commercial traffic.
“Our energy producers, both in Kentucky and outside the state, will be vulnerable if they cannot ship and receive the fuel they need in an efficient manner, and lowering the water levels could have a negative impact on that supply,” said Kentucky President and CEO Dave Adkisson.
Kentucky’s Congressional Delegation, lead by Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to the proposal to drop water levels. The senators have urged the Corps and President Obama to take immediate action. They also urged Gov. Steve Beshear to declare a Federal Disaster Declaration in order to protect Kentucky jobs.
Last week, Gov. Beshear urged the Corps to “ensure every effort is made to maximize commerce on our inland waterway system and to promote the export of American goods across the world market.”
“Water levels along the section of the Mississippi from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill. (the ‘bottleneck reach’) are fast approaching levels last seen during the historic 1989 low-water year,” Gov. Beshear said. “Companies in the navigation industry are shipping less material by ‘light loading’ fleets, and the potential for further restrictions is likely, absent your intervention. Loading and unloading at impacted harbors is more costly and is complicated by difficult, shallow water conditions.”