CHICAGO – December 16, 2012 – Governor Pat Quinn today hailed the quick action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the removal of rock pinnacles near Thebes, south of Cape Girardeau, that pose a threat to barge traffic on the Mississippi River. The move comes following Governor Quinn’s request last month as concerns mounted about the low levels of water on the Mississippi due to the 2012 drought. The governor also praised the leadership of Senator Dick Durbin who helped marshal federal resources to keep the waterway open.
“Keeping the Mississippi River open to commercial traffic is critically important for the economy of the state of Illinois and the entire upper Midwest,” Governor Quinn said. “On behalf of the many Illinois businesses and residents who rely on the Mississippi, I want to thank the Army Corps of Engineers and Senator Durbin for their strong partnership throughout this process. We will continue taking every step necessary to help people and businesses across the state through this unprecedented drought.”
The Corps has indicated that two contractors are scheduled to begin removal of the rock pinnacles at Thebes as soon as this week. The contractors started moving equipment to the area last week. On Friday, the Corps held a pre-construction meeting with the contractors to finalize plans for rock blasting and removal, as well as development of a navigation impact schedule.
In response to a November 14 letter from Governor Quinn that raised related concerns about river navigation, the U.S. Coast Guard is developing plans to manage the flow of barge traffic during the rock removal period. The Coast Guard is establishing a mobile command post to provide on-site monitoring and assistance of barge traffic control issues.
The Corps and the Coast Guard estimated that the lowest river levels should occur near December 26th, when the river is expected to hit a record low level in the mid-Mississippi River region. After the Corps removes the rock pinnacles at Thebes and the Grand Tower area, they will continue with dredging activities intended to support safe and navigable channels as much as possible.
As the Mississippi River levels have been dropping, Governor Quinn has taken quick action to bring together stakeholders and ensure that necessary steps are taken to preserve its economic vitality. The Quinn administration has been meeting regularly with representatives from the agricultural, transportation and energy industries, as well as working with the federal government to take every step necessary to maintain navigation on the Mississippi River. Governor Quinn has also ordered a number of Illinois state agencies – including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Natural Resources and Transportation – to stand ready to assist the effort in any way possible.