JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster joined industry and trade groups Thursday in asking President Obama to declare a presidential emergency to avoid a drought-related transportation shutdown on the Mississippi River.
Koster said drought in the Midwest combined with the Army Corps of Engineers plan to reduce flows from dams on the upper Missouri River threaten commercial transportation because of rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes, Ill.
Koster asked the president to order the Corps of Engineers to fast-track efforts to remove the pinnacles and order the Corps to maintain flow support from the Missouri River until the pinnacles are removed.
"If commercial navigation is significantly impaired or eliminated because of navigation hazards, there will be catastrophic consequences to the economy of the nation's heartland, including Missouri, which will reverberate throughout the country," Koster wrote to the president.
A scorching summer and long drought have threatened barge traffic on the Mississippi. There is a good chance that the river in St. Louis will fall beneath its record low set in 1940, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
St. Louis has received just 1.4 inches of rain this month, which is 2.4 inches blow normal. St. Louis is almost 8 inches below normal for the year; the last significant rain in St. Louis fell on Nov. 11.
Ann McCulloch, a spokeswoman for the American Waterways Operators, told the Post-Dispatch that $7 billion in commerce could be hung up if the river is shut transportation.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement: "The president needs to take a look at what's happening in the Midwest and act. The clock is ticking while jobs and businesses in the region are endangered."