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Public Statements

Letter to President Obama

U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined a bipartisan group of 15 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Barack Obama calling for "action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent an economic calamity in the center of our nation."

Specifically, the lawmakers are urging the president to issue an emergency directive to streamline the contracting process for rock removal on the Mississippi River, as well as explicitly authorize the Army Corps to release water on the Missouri River.

"Given the magnitude of the economic impact that would result from a potentially months-long loss of navigation on the Mississippi, we support an emergency directive to permit additional water flows from Missouri River reservoirs to maintain navigation on the Mississippi, and to waive Federal Acquisition Rules (FAR) to allow the Corps of Engineers to expedite blasting of the rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes, Illinois," the Senators wrote.

"The Mississippi River is an artery of commerce critical to the movement of hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods and commodities such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals, and many other products important to the national economy," said the Senators. "Given the potentially large negative impact of this looming disaster, we hope that you will give due consideration to our request."

In addition to U.S. Senators Harkin and Blunt, Senators Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Boozman (Ark.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Al Franken (Minn.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), David Vitter (La.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) also signed the letter.

Yesterday, Harkin and Blunt joined lawmakers from affected states in a meeting with the Army Corps to continue pressing for action on critically low water levels. On November 16, 2012, Blunt, Harkin, and 13 of their Senate colleagues sent a letter to the Army Corps urging immediate action to prevent the reduction in water released from the Missouri River.

To read the full letter to President Obama, please see below.

November 29, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We understand that the governors of impacted states, representatives of industry, and others have written seeking action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent an economic calamity in the center of our nation. We write in strong support of their request. Absent emergency action to ensure that water levels do not fall below the level needed to support the navigation channel, commercial navigation on the middle Mississippi River between St. Louis, MO, and Cairo, IL, will be severely impaired as early as mid-December. Substantial curtailment of navigation will effectively sever the country's inland waterway superhighway, imperil the shipment of critical cargo for domestic consumption and for export, threaten manufacturing industries and power generation, and risk thousands of related jobs in the Midwest.

Given the magnitude of the economic impact that would result from a potentially months-long loss of navigation on the Mississippi, we support an emergency directive to permit additional water flows from Missouri River reservoirs to maintain navigation on the Mississippi, and to waive Federal Acquisition Rules (FAR) to allow the Corps of Engineers to expedite blasting of the rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes, Illinois. These pinnacles pose a hazard to barge navigation during periods of low water levels and their removal will allow commercial navigation on the Mississippi to continue. Once the rocks are removed, additional water flows from the Missouri River would be unnecessary or significantly reduced. Waiving FAR guidelines could allow the Corps to sole source for the work, eliminating the 30-day requirement for bids and allowing the work to proceed in an expedited manner.

The Mississippi River is an artery of commerce critical to the movement of hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods and commodities such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals, and many other products important to the national economy. All told, cargo valued at over $7 billion, including 300 million bushels of agricultural products and 3.8 million tons of coal, could experience shipping delays that cause ripple effects and damage local economies up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. In addition, if shipping on the river is impeded, about five million barrels of domestically produced crude oil will not be shipped and purchases of imported crude oil will increase by about $550 million as a result.

Given the potentially large negative impact of this looming disaster, we hope that you will give due consideration to our request.


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