Ill. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is among elected officials monitoring water levels on the Mississippi River. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
ALTON – Ill. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon recognizes the importance of maintaining navigation along the Mississippi River.
Simon attended a meeting called by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) last week in Alton, Ill. of elected officials and river stakeholders.
“It has a big impact nationally, economically, but it sure makes an impact locally for jobs right here in the region, so we’re paying close attention and glad to be cooperating,” said Simon.
Simon said state and federal government officials are very aware of what is happening with the river as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to dredge the shipping lane and remove rock pinnacles from a key stretch of the waterway.
“The level of attention in Springfield is very high. Both the governor and I have been working with the Corps of Engineers to urge them to do what they can within the resources that they have to keep the barge traffic flowing, and I think the level of coordination between state government and federal government is high, as well,” said Simon. “We’ve been working with Dick Durbin in his office, and the Corps of Engineers, we were very pleased, was able to speed up the contract for blowing up the rock pinnacles, which will make a difference both in the short term and in the long term.”
The Corps started removing rock pinnacles near Thebes and Grand Tower, Ill. last week. The river is so low in some areas that excavation equipment has been used instead of explosive charges. Recent rains and water releases from Carlisle Lake have improved flow and river levels should rise over the next several days. Now it appears the river will not reach problematic levels until mid-January, even with no more rain. Simon said all options for keeping the river moving are important.
“I think we do need to look at all options for keeping barge traffic going on the Mississippi, and that includes looking at options in the Missouri. Every state has an interest in their own water, and I want to make sure that I speak up loudly for Illinois’ interest in making sure that barge traffic continues, because it does have an impact not just on Illinois, but on our national economy,” said Simon. “We heard today about the impact on grain prices, the impact on international trade, international markets… we need to make sure that we’re doing what we can to keep that river going and to keep the barges going down it.”
More information about Mississippi River levels is available on the Illinois Corn Growers Association website.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.