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Mississippi dredged for boats to pass

Dec. 20, 2012 at 10:53 AM

THEBES, Ill., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Extreme drought conditions in the central United States has led to shallow spots in the Mississippi River, which engineers said they are working to make deeper.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working since July to dig out shallow spots in the Mississippi though ongoing droughts have made it difficult to keep up with problem areas, Voice of America reported Thursday.

Crew members of the Dredge Potter are dredging around the clock to help keep the river open.

"We are dredging priority locations, and just keeping up with the falling river forecast to maintain navigation," said Lance Engle of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Dredge Potter suctions up the sediment, transports it through a pipeline and deposits outside the river channel.

Marty Hettel's barges at AEP River Operations said his company's boats have to lighten their loads just to make it down the river.

"To have any support for the river here, we need a good 10 days to two weeks of steady rainfall, and it's not predicted. It's just not there," he said.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers began breaking up plates of rock in the river Wednesday to open up a rocky curve near Thebes, Ill., WBEZ-FM, Chicago, reported Thursday.

"The barges can't get through there, they'll just tear their bottoms right out," Chicago tugboat owner John Kindra said.

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