US: Corps of Engineers removing rock formations from Mississippi RiverNews // December 21, 2012
The US Army Corps of Engineers says contracts have been awarded for the removal of rock formations in the Mississippi River near Thebes, Illinois, that pose a threat to navigation as water levels on the river drop.
The agency has awarded two contracts for rock removal work in a nearly six mile stretch of river. Newt Marine, Inc, of Dubuque, Iowa, will remove the rock formation upstream of Thebes; Kokosing Construction, from Fredericktown, Ohio, will remove the rock formation downstream of Thebes.
Work began December 15th, upstream of the Thebes railroad bridge. While final blasting plans are still being developed, full operations will begin this week, with blasting to take place during daylight hours.
The US Coast Guard is coordinating notices to mariners, and river closures are scheduled for 16 hours on working days, starting December 17, between 6 am and 10 pm each day during the rock removal, with traffic allowed to pass for eight hours.
The work will remove around 890 cubic yards of limestone from the water-starved river to reduce the risk for vessels in the channel during low water. The rocks are part of a large formation that impedes the navigation channel during low water. More rock removal is planned for later dates, but the work that began December 15, will address areas that will have the most immediate impact on the navigation.
Removing the rock formations is one of many operations the Corps and US Coast Guard are undertaking along the narrowing river to maintain a 9ft deep channel for river navigation.
Dredging has been ongoing since early July to preserve the channel, as well as continued surveys, channel patrols to keep commerce safely moving on the Middle Mississippi.
"The drought across much of the Midwest is making river navigation challenging," said Colonel Chris Hall, St Louis District commander.
"We are taking additional measures and are confident that we will be able to maintain a safe and reliable channel for our partners in the river industry."
The Corps is in constant communication and coordination with the Coast Guard and the river industry as the drought has reduced water levels throughout the Mississippi River Basin to historic lows.
The Corps of Engineers is working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation to avoid and minimize impacts to the environment. The focus by both the Corps and the Coast Guard, Hall said, is safety during the operation.
The Coast Guard has established a safety zone for the affected sections of the river. The safety zone will prohibit access to the river and affected areas along the banks on both sides of the blasting sites. Public access to the work area is limited.