An urgent request by federal lawmakers to release more water from the Missouri River to the drought-starved Mississippi was denied by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Associated Press says, citing a revised National Weather Service forecast that indicates water levels won't drop as rapidly as previously thought.
NWS now predicts the river will stay above the 9-foot threshold until about Dec. 29, allowing barges to continue shipping.
Barges have been carrying lighter loads to accomodate for low water levels for months. Lawmakers fear that the river could become impassable if the water dips even lower which was originally predicted to happen early this month, putting at risk $7 billion in commodities that are shipped along the Mississippi in December and January.
The corps tells the Associated Press that it is legislatively bound to act in the best interest of the Missouri River which is also experiencing low levels. Allowing more water to flow out of the Missouri could negatively impact drinking water supplies, animal habitat and hydropower.
The Army Corps says they will work on removing rock pinnacles south of St. Louis that endanger barges when the water level is low as early as this month.
The shipping season officially closed in the Upper Mississippi River on Dec. 3 for winter maintenance.