US ARMY CORPS SAYS BELIEVES CAN KEEP MIDDLE MISSISSIPPI RIVER OPEN TO BARGES THROUGH LATE DECEMBER

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 7, 2012 1:49pm EST

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WASHINGTON Dec 7 (Reuters) - US ARMY CORPS SAYS BELIEVES CAN KEEP MIDDLE MISSISSIPPI RIVER OPEN TO BARGES THROUGH LATE DECEMBER DREDGING, ROCK REMOVAL, FALL RAINS SUFFICIENT WITHOUT MISSOURI RIVER DIVERSION-CORPS OF ENGINEERS The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there will be enough water to maintain barge traffic in the middle Mississippi River to maintain barge traffic through late December without diverting water from Missouri River reservoirs, said Assistant Army Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy.

A combination of dredging, removal of rocky outcroppings in the river channel and fall rain, along with a reduced feed from the Missouri River "are expected to be sufficient to sustain navigation on the middle Mississippi," said Darcy, who oversees the Corps.

The Corps of Engineers is responsible for operation of inland waterways. More than 100 million tons of cargo, half of it corn and soybeans, travel on the middle Mississippi each year. Shippers and farm groups fear the continuing drought will make the river too shallow for traffic.

(Reporting By Charles Abbott)

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