November 20 - The American Waterways Operators (AWO), the national trade association representing the US tugboat and barge industry, is calling on Congress to address a developing situation on the Mississippi which could effectively bring commerce on the

Water releases from dams on the upper Missouri are planned to be significantly scaled back later this month and these reductions are expected to negatively impact the Mississippi water level as of December 1, 2012.

Of particular concern are hazardous rock formations near Thebes and Grand Tower, Illinois, which threaten navigation when water levels are anticipated to drop to near historic lows, prohibiting the transport of essential goods along this critical point in the river, effectively stopping barge transportation on the middle Mississippi around December 10, 2012.

"Congress and the Administration need to understand the immediate severity of this situation," said Tom Allegretti, AWO president and ceo. "The Mississippi River is an economic superhighway that efficiently carries hundreds of millions of tonnes of essential goods for domestic use as well as national export. We need to address this situation swiftly, cut through bureaucratic red tape, and prevent the closure of the Mississippi."