Army Corps working to keep barge traffic moving along Mississippi River
THEBES, Ill. - Just by looking at the Mississippi River, Neal Day knows there has to be brighter days ahead.
"It's nothing else but Mother Nature," he said of the low river levels.
He owns Thebes Landing, an RV park in town. Day said the water is a major draw for campers but the low levels are a bigger nightmare for the barge industry.
"Its certainly going to put a kink in the overall picture of getting grain to market, coal, the various oars, scrap metals. The very things we rely on river transportation," Day said.
With the help of the US Coast Guard, members of the Army Corps of Engineers are working to remove underwater rock pinnacles that are getting in the way of barges. The Corps is using backhoes and explosives to dig up the rocks. Day doesn't mind all the commotion if it keeps the barges from becoming stuck or stopped altogether.
"That's exactly why they are out here right now to prevent that from happening," he said.
Day says there is one positive. He's seen an increase in train traffic. "Normally there's 60 a day. Now there's over 70 a day," Day said.
He knows the drought won't last forever, but he's thankful for the work being done now in order to keep his business and river traffic flowing.
"It may not be this week or next week or next month even, but eventually it will start raining again and this river will come back up," he said.
On Monday, US Senator Dick Durbin and US Representative Bill Enyart are taking a boat tour to observe the efforts to clear the Mississippi River bedrock. They'll be briefed near Thebes by officials with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.