SEMO Port faces possible temporary closure

SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - The SEMO Port could be closed off to barge traffic as early as Labor Day, if the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't dredge the port.

Southeast Missouri Regional Port authorities say if port doesn't get dredged, barges can't get in.

Dredging means lowering the river bed by cleaning out mud that builds up around the port.

If the bed isn't dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers, the port authority says it may not be able to pay the $360,000 to do it itself.

"If you get enough mud coming up and enough water going down, there's no room to put a barge through," said SEMO Port Executive Director Dan Overbey.

Overbey says barge traffic has decreased a little over the past couple of years, but could come to a halt if the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't dredge the port.

He says a temporary closure could lead to lost jobs at the port, and have an even greater impact on the local economy.

"A lot of people, a lot of farmers, a lot of truck drivers from different companies depend on it," said Overbey.  "I don't see it totally going to zero, but it would be very difficult. It would be something we don't want to see happen, that's for sure."

Senator Claire McCaskill also doesn't want to see it happen.

She sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers asking them to dredge the port, citing how critical the port is to local farmers, especially around Labor Day.

That something Overbey agrees with.

"We really need that, especially going into fall because we have two grain elevators and we have fertilizer, a couple of companies ship fertilizer through here, so we need that in the fall because that's when farmers are their busiest," he said.

Overbey also worries that a temporary shut down could affect future business, saying customers always want the most reliable services, and a shutdown of any length would make the port less attractive.

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