A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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April 2018
'A Remarkable Asset, A Working River'

     Minneapolis and St. Paul are “twins” by proximity only.  As a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial and a Washington Post story show, the two cities have taken much different paths since the days when both aspired to be the head of navigation and commerce on the Mississippi River.
     The Pioneer Press says, “We’re fortunate in this special place, one with more miles of Mississippi riverfront - 26 - than any other city from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico.
     “Our remarkable natural asset also is a working river — supporting jobs and wealth creations and helping drive the region’s economy.  In this northernmost port for commerce on one of the world’s great rivers, we’re set for another shipping season.”
      The Washington Post in a lengthy, multi-media story, recently visited Upper St. Anthony Falls Lockmaster Mike Derusha who is, “the last man left.”
     The Post said, “Efforts to control the river start way up north, including at a lock and dam that once gave Minneapolis bragging rights as the river’s ‘Head of Navigation.’ This is where the river that begins as a trickle in Upper Minnesota crashes like a white-water fist into a 50-foot limestone gorge…
     “The official reason this lock closed three years ago was worries about invasive Asian carp swimming their way further north and using the lock to get around the falls. But that wasn’t the real culprit. Instead, the extraordinary decision to mothball a major piece of infrastructure illustrates how much the Mississippi’s role in American life has changed.
     ‘Minneapolis decided to give up on a dream its predecessors fought so hard for — to be the economic bookend to New Orleans,’ said river historian John Anfinson. “But they have new dreams now.’”
     The Pioneer Press says the recent commodity tonnage into and out of the Port of St. Paul was 8.1 million metric tons in 2016 (the latest figures available) beating the previous year’s 6.8 million metric tons.
     The paper spoke with Kathryn Sarnecki, vice president of redevelopment and harbor management for the St. Paul Port Authority, who attributed the increase to agricultural production, a strengthening economy and, “the appeal of river shipping for its cost and efficiency.”

(Above) The Mv Michael Poindexter and its 12 barges was the first tow of the season into St. Paul this year.  This year’s opening was well past the average start date of March 22 and is the latest start date unrelated to flooding.  (COE Photo)
From the Executive Director...

Funding Marine Infrastructure Can Reduce Highway Maintenance
     That study put out by the Mid-America Freight Coalition (MAFC) last December continues to make news as more and more newspapers and other media discover it.  The relatively benign title: “Modal Investment Comparison:  The Impact of Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam Shutdowns on State Highway Infrastructure,” belies the truly stunning implications of its contents. 
     While under MAFC’s auspices, the study was supported by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.  But the verbiage reads like anything but typical governmentese.  Take this sentence from the opening summary for instance: “Given the lack of investment and, in many cases, deteriorating pavement conditions, a potential shutdown of the Mississippi River due to lock and dam failure and forcing the agricultural tonnage onto the highways in five key agriculture producing states could wreak [economic and environmental havoc on highways.”

Under 30 pages
     The report is under 30 pages and packed with tables and charts that dramatically make the case UMWA members have been presenting to decision makers for many years.   If you haven’t had a chance to download and read it, here are some things that stood out to us.
     Table 4.6 details the age and condition of system locks and dams.  Of interest are the two columns which list the year the structure was completed and the year when the last rehab work was done.  Although lock and dam 14 was rehabbed as recently as 2011, L&D 10 was completed in 1937 and the last rehab work was done in 1969.  Seems like L&D 10 is a very strong candidate for the “Fix to Fail” methodology that has been forced on the Corps of Engineers by past budgets.

Most Written About
      The most written about conclusions of the study are contained in Tables 4.1 and 4.2 which detail the total tons, tons shifted to trucks, truck loads, additional trucks per day and pavement and trucking costs incurred should the key Lock and Dam 25 fail and close.
     With all agricultural cargo shifted from the river to trucks, it would mean an additional 12 million truck tons or 489,496 truckloads pounding the already battered highways leading to St. Louis though five states.  An environmental red flag is also raised by the estimated 212,464 additional tons of CO2 that would be added to the atmosphere.
      Something else we found interesting is the study says the analysis in the report “can also be considered a starting point for understanding the impacts of container markets along the entire Mississippi River, entering at the gulf or at rail intermodal centers and reaching its final urban destination via the water.
     “Similarly, for OSOW loads (oversize, overweight), marine movements could offer the ultimate solution of harmonization, congestion-free travel (mostly), and tremendous reductions in pavement damage and maintenance costs. Containers and OSOW can be planned for delivery with precision on the riverfront.” 

Expands understanding
     The MAFC document details many past studies on shutdown impacts, but says this work expands the understanding of the impact on regional roads if 100% or even 75% of the area’s agricultural commodities were shifted.  Authors note that “if enough trucks and drivers were available” close to 500 thousand additional truckloads would be competing for space on regional roads. 
     In conclusion study authors say, “Increased investment in marine infrastructure can mitigate increased highway maintenance costs through increased modal share and reduced pavement damage and safety issues.  If we are unable to develop polices and funding programs to support our entire system as a system, then logistics costs, system reliability and a treadmill of short term funding and infrastructure solutions will be needed to patch the transportation infrastructure and our economy.”
     While the modal investment comparison information in this report was spot-on with respect to the consequences of a barge to truck modal shift, the study’s discussion of MAASTO (Mid American Association of State Transportation Officials) is more descriptive of long-term multimodal investment needs.

All modes must be leveraged 
     All modes, said the report, must be leveraged to move the current tonnage in the United States of 55 million tons per day valued at $49.3 billion (USDOT, 2015) which current estimates suggest will increase nearly 30% by 2040.  The move towards a multimodal system being pursued by MAASTO’s members (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin) at the agency level reflects the region’s role as a crossroad for rail, waterways and highways.           

     Further, it recognizes the region’s multimodal approach is driven by the natural resources and raw products produced in the area that rely on the marine freight systems provided by the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.  Unfortunately, continues the report, freight and multimodal investment needs have the same challenges as investment needs in all transportation areas.  As a result, there has been underinvestment in the system across the board and a continued reduction in available funds.  Consequently, new construction programs are being reduced as agencies work to overcome a backlog of maintenance needs in every mode that has produced an $836 billion backlog in highway and bridge in underinvestment alone (2015 Federal Highway Administration).
     Paraphrasing a summary, the report states that assuming cargoes, markets and market timing can adapt to freight movement on a variety of modes, there is rationale for supporting modes with available capacity and fewer environmental impacts (think waterways).  There is also rationale for assuming that investments in waterways (with available capacity) could reduce the damage, maintenance and investment needs on the dominant mode(s) with little or no capacity remaining.  Barring additional investment in marine infrastructure that could result in its eventual failure, how many additional tons of cargo, number of trucks and marginal costs will the highway system be required to absorb?  Further, how do these impacts compare to the needed investment in marine infrastructures?

Other Items of Interest...

*   Shipping season at the Port of Duluth opened March 21, this year, when the Clyde S. VanEnkevort sailed out under the lift bridge. Six other vessels departed shortly after and two ore carriers arrived March 23. 

A recent “Regional Vitality Summit” at Minnesota State College Southeast, drew a big crowd of educators, business leaders and government officials. Lead by Congressman Tim Walz the Summit underscored the need for infrastructure revitalization including new or improved locks and dams.  Myron White, the development coordinator for the city of Winona said, Our lock and dam system is antiquated at best, We’re using 100-year-old infrastructure.”  He said that present efforts are just “patchwork” to hold things together.

*   The St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft Environmental Assessment for a planned project to improve and restore backwater habitat in Pigs Eye Lake.  Material recovered from the navigation channel will provide material for seven islands.  The Assessment says the island will help reduce wind erosion, stabilize the lake bottom and make beneficial use of dredged material.  Work is scheduled to begin in 2019.

*  Missouri and Louisiana port officials have agreed to share marketing, studies and data about the increasing demand for container traffic on the Mississippi RiverWorkboat magazine says, bigger container vessels coming through the new Panama Canal have port planners looking at ways to handle an increase in container traffic. 

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