Remember a few years ago when an interstate highway bridge in Minnesota collapsed? The federal government had the vision to rebuild the bridge quickly to get traffic flowing over the Mississippi River again.
Now federal shortsightedness means that barge traffic on the Mississippi River superhighway is at risk of being halted.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is decreasing the amount of water released on the upper Missouri River to help keep the reservoirs filled to the north. But can't the Corps see the devastating impact that could have on commerce?
The reduced flows will mean less water flowing into the Mississippi, which is already at near-record lows. That plus the Corps' failure to remove some rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes as requested could bring barge traffic between St. Louis and Cairo to a halt by mid-December. So what happens to the estimated $7 billion worth of agricultural and other products that are slated to be moved by barge on the Mississippi during December and January?
The American Waterways Council and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn are among the groups and politicians asking President Obama to order the Corps to act to avert this economic catastrophe. Let's hope the White House can see the big picture that the Corps is missing. The federal government needs to do everything it can to keep the river traffic and transportation economy flowing.