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Industry warns of economic fallout if Mississippi River shuts down because of low water levels

The gentle whir of passing barges is as much a part of life in St. Louis as the Gateway Arch and the Cardinals. It's a constant backdrop to a community intricately intertwined with the Mississippi River.

But next month, those barges packing such necessities as coal, farm products and petroleum could instead be parked along the river's banks.

The drought that has gripped the Midwest has left the Mighty Mississippi critically low. It'll get lower if the Army Corps of Engineers presses ahead with plans to reduce the flow from a Missouri River dam.

Mississippi River interests fear the reduction will force a halt to barge traffic at St. Louis, perhaps within weeks.

They warn the economic fallout could force layoffs, raise fuel costs and pinch the nation's food supply.

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