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Army Corps begins river rock removal

Jeff Caldwell 12/19/2012 @ 2:31pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The Army Corps of Engineers has begun the process of removing rock from the Mississippi River channel in an effort to keep open navigation -- including the movement of grain -- that's been threatened by this year's drought.

In a meeting with lawmakers Tuesday, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) said the removal of just short of 900 cubic yards of limestone on the riverbed began near Thebes, Illinois, marking the first phase in the Corps' effort to prevent restrictions on barge size from being enacted. Army Corps Mississippi Valley Division Commander Major General John Peabody told Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Representatives Jerry Costello and John Shimkus, and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon that the operation should move fairly quickly and prevent any holdups in the movement of grain along the river.

"We've been preparing for this since early summer, which means continuous collaboration with our partners, the U.S. Coast Guard and the navigation industry, to help provide a safe and reliable channel," Peabody said Tuesday. "We remain cautiously optimistic that if we do not have any interruptions, it will be short in duration as we continue to maintain a safe and reliable navigation channel."

Until the rock removal is completed in the critical stretch of river around Thebes, Illinois, and St. Louis, water has been removed from nearby Carlyle Lake to help keep water levels at or above the minimum depth for navigation. That's expected to continue until the completion of rock removal, which comes on the heels of work this past summer to remove 6 million cubic yards of material from the entire upper and lower Mississippi River system, ACE officials say.

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