Groups Seek Emergency Declaration for Mississippi River Situation

President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have received a request for a presidential declaration of emergency. The request came from the American Waterways Operators, National Waterways Conference, Waterways Council, Inc. and 15 other national organizations who are seeking immediate assistance in averting an economic catastrophe in the heartland of the United States. The problem is the worsening situation on the Mississippi River. Near historic low water levels have restricted barge traffic on the river since the summer. The letter notes that the crisis was created by this year's drought conditions - but says it will come to a head now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun to implement plans to reduce the release of water to the Mississippi River from dams on the upper Missouri River. The groups are not only asking the President to declare an emergency - but also to direct the Corps to remove rock pinnacles that are impairing the flow of commerce by mid-December and to release as much water as necessary from the Missouri River reservoirs to preserve a nine-foot channel on the Mississippi River to sustain commercial navigation.

In their letter to the President and the FEMA Administrator - the groups warn that the economic impacts of Mississippi River closure would be dire. Among other products - they note seven-million tons of agricultural products worth 2.3-billion dollars would be at risk.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association and The Fertilizer Institute all signed the letter. The governors of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri - as well as 15 U.S. Senators and 62 members of the U.S. House - have also written the Administration to call attention to the severity of the situation and urge action to keep the river open to navigation.

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