Low water levels on Mississippi a concern for Cates Landing officials

Low water levels on Mississippi a concern for Cates Landing officials
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Low water conditions along the Mississippi River continue to be a concern for Jimmy Williamson, chairman of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority.
Williamson has his eye on a March 2013 opening of the Cates Landing riverport north of Tiptonville, but a drought-stricken Mississippi River could create some problems for the Lake County port.
“We’re concerned about it,” Williamson said. “We need water in the channel to be able to work.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working for the past few weeks on maintaining a nine-foot river channel open for barge traffic along the waterway. The corps began restricting the water flow from the Upper Missouri River reservoirs in late November as part of its Annual Operating Plan.
That action has had a direct impact on the Mississippi River and its barge traffic. Williamson has been monitoring the situation as it will have a direct impact on the Cates Landing riverport and barge traffic in and out of the port once it opens.
“As long as they do that (maintain a nine-foot navigation channel on the Mississippi River) I think our port will be in pretty good shape,” Williamson said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The corps is currently working on removing rock pinnacles in the Mississippi River in southern Illinois to help maintain a channel for barge traffic.
There has been a considerable amount of attention focused on the corps’ work on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
The Mississippi River was described as “vital to the manufacturing and agriculture community, and ultimately American jobs” a recent letter to Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy states in part. “The river system is the global gateway for American products and commodities, and its continued traffic flow is of the utmost importance.”
The letter has the signatures of 62 members of Congress, including local Congressman Stephen Fincher, in support of opening up the water flow along the Mississippi River.
Also, Gov. Bill Haslam sent a letter in late November to the Army assistant secretary.
“I am writing to concur with many other elected officials who represent states along the Mississippi River in expressing our concerns that low water levels on the waterway may hamper the flow of vital barge traffic,” the governor’s letter states in part.
The Tennessee governor described the Mississippi River as “one of America’s most important avenues of commerce and a vital corridor for Tennessee industries.”
For now, work continues by the corps on opening up the water flow along the Mississippi River and that’s good news for Williamson and the Cates Landing riverport.
“When the port opens next year, it will become a more pressing concern,” Williamson said about the river’s water level.
The port authority’s next scheduled meeting is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 9 in Dyersburg. Williamson said he expects to have a preliminary draft of a master plan for the port by that meeting. Members of the port authority will be given time to review the preliminary report and will be allowed to make any recommendations, according to Williamson.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.20.12

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