Durbin to assess Miss. River rock-removal effort

A small boat passes along the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River  at Vicksburg, Miss., Thursday, July 26. 2012. in a switch of extremes, the river has dropped to very low levels this summer unlike last year when the river was flooding much of the Delta due to record high levels. The drop in water level now exposes the river bottom, forcing river traffic to a trickle as barges are forced to lessen their loads to keep from getting stuck on sandbars. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A small boat passes along the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Miss., Thursday, July 26. 2012. in a switch of extremes, the river has dropped to very low levels this summer unlike last year when the river was flooding much of the Delta due to record high levels. The drop in water level now exposes the river bottom, forcing river traffic to a trickle as barges are forced to lessen their loads to keep from getting stuck on sandbars. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

THEBES, Ill. (AP) -- Two federal lawmakers from Illinois are getting a firsthand look at urgent efforts to clear some Mississippi River bedrock that's crimping shipping on the waterway.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Bill Enyart are to be briefed Monday about the work near Thebes by Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard officials, then tour the site by boat before addressing reporters.

Corps-hired contractors have been working since last month to clear the underwater rock pinnacles from the river.

The effort is considered vital in ensuring that stretch of river remains open to barge traffic as the lingering drought continues to lower the level of the Mississippi.

Barge industry trade groups have expressed concern the ever-dropping river could further restrict barge weights to the point that shipping on the river is halted.


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