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)