Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mississippi River bedrock is being blasted to clear way for barge traffic, which will slow temporarily

Barge operators along a key stretch of the Mississippi River are bracing for months of shipping delays as the Army Corps of Engineers prepares to blast rock formations that are impeding river traffic because of low water levels, The Associated Press reports. Contractors from Iowa and Ohio will begin drilling holes into the river's bedrock near Thebes, Ill., and detonating explosives this week. They expect to remove enough rock to fill 50 dump trucks.

The decision to blast the rock comes at the same time as a Corps decision to release water from Carlyle Lake in southern Illinois to increase the river's depth by six inches so barges can pass the rock formations as the rubble is hauled away. A six-mile stretch of the river will be closed to shipping today until 10 p.m. so the explosives can be detonated safely. Then, barges will have to line up, waiting to be flagged through the stretch one at a time, a process that could take up to eight hours.

The project was to be done in February, but at the behest of legislators from Mississippi River states, the Corps moved up its plan. Corps spokesman Mike Petersen told AP that the project would be completed by the end of March. The rock to be removed would typically be underneath sand and silt in the river bottom, but it has been exposed by Corps dredging to keep the channel open. (Read more)

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