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A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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August 2017 
 
AWO Study Out

     The recently released American Waterways Operators (AWO)/U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) study documenting the economic contributions of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry to the nation graphically validates what UMWA members and other stakeholders have been saying for years: cargo movement on the inland waterway system is environmentally friendly, fuel efficient and a major economic contributor.

     Conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the study says 300,000 jobs are supported by the industry, 760 million tons of cargo are moved and waterborne transportation is by far the most environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient transportation mode.
     The new study joins others highlighted in this publication over the years, including an analysis by the Texas Transportation Institute for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, studies by the National Waterways Foundation and, late last year, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce (See the Executive Director’s Column for details on this study).

     Equally enlightening and important is a study late last year requested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service on the cost of system disruption.  The service asked the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC), to model and detail the impact of a prolonged closure at even one of the strategically vital locks on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW). 
     The study’s conclusions were summed up in the headline on its new release and announcement: “Economic Impact of Inland Waterway Disruptions: Potentially Billions.”  The subhead said, “Aging Locks and Dams Negatively Affecting U.S. Producers and Consumers.”

     UMWA and other industry interests were encouraged earlier this year when President Donald Trump went to the Ohio River to call attention to the Inland Waterway System and its desperate need for maintenance and upgrades.  The hope is the growing weight of evidence can generate the political will and vision to revitalize the aging lock and dam system.

 
Seeing It First Hand

     Several times this summer, river interests have organized tours for decision makers to show them the deterioration of river infrastructure on vital waterways.  One recent tour had to skirt around crews dredging the Mississippi so piers for a new Interstate bridge can be built

     Organizers of that tour pointed out that the old bridge and the nearby Lock and Dam 15 were constructed about the same time in the 1930s and while the bridge is being replaced, the old lock, which is well past its design life, is in danger of failing. 
     That lock was closed for a time this summer so that a crumbling guide wall could be taken out before it tumbled into the river.  A contract to replace that wall will be let this Fall, but the Corps of Engineers says it is not a fix for the Lock and Dam’s larger problems.
     The tour was organized by corn grower associations in Illinois and Iowa and hosted Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack.

     Incidentally, the Corps is reassuring recreational boaters in the Quad-Cities area that it is safe to use the old lock, despite the cranes and other repair equipment there.
 
(Above) Governors of both Minnesota and Wisconsin were on hand to dedicate the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge. Waterborne movement played a major role in construction and it was only last October that the last bridge deck sections were moved to the construction site by barge.
 
From the Executive Director...

(Here is the column mentioned in the Waterways lead story)

Illinois study redefines waterway beneficiaries
 
     In its third study over a seven year period, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce once again confirmed the value and significance of the Illinois River system.  The Chamber’s newest report found that Illinois waterways support more than 1.7 million jobs and $102 billion in wages across 22 counties that benefit from the waterway, representing approximately 47 percent of all employment in the study.   
     Problems on Illinois waterways mirror those on the entire Upper Mississippi: deferred maintenance and shortage of federal funding have made an already outdated system unreliable.  While the 45% increase in the amount contributed by the waterway industry to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund starting in 2014 has supported increased federal appropriations, the severity of the problem has been reduced but maintenance backlog continues to be challenging.
     These findings are in a report prepared by the Economic Development Research Group, Inc, in association with the Center for Transportation Research, University of Tennessee.
 
     Unlike the first two, this study explored areas well beyond the footprint of its predecessors:  It identified a greater array of non-navigation beneficiaries “who could potentially contribute towards funding the improvements to the system from which they benefit” and it developed a list of five improvement options, each with projected cost savings to users of the system.
     An uncommon feature of this study, however, is that after listing potential contributors and improvement options it warned “Where the funding could come from is an open question not resolved by this study”.
 
Navigation beneficiaries
     Nonetheless, the report went on to identify the major commodities transported on the Illinois waterways:  aggregates, chemicals, coal/coke, grains, iron/steel and petroleum fuels, and recited the customary list of navigation users: Manufacturing, agriculture, energy utilities and mining. An unexpected addition, however, included the respective customers, supply chain partners and workers of the listed industries.  The performance of the overall surface transport infrastructure was also listed as a beneficiary, as surface roads and rail lines would be inundated if forced to haul the 24 million tons of freight currently moving on the Illinois River system.
 
Non-navigation beneficiaries
     The report included other businesses and workers who depend on the waterway for reasons beyond flood control and navigation uses including system water use by power plant cooling, municipal water systems, wildlife habitat preservation and recreational users.  Also listed as non-navigation beneficiaries were government organizations including the military, surface transportation modes, and material handling and terminal operations.  Just over 111,000 establishments were identified totaling 1.7 million jobs. 
     The above 1.7 million jobs fall into 11 categories with health care, retail trade and ‘others’ totaling 58% of employment studied. The remaining 42% include waiters, bartenders, doctors, lawyers, teachers, insurance brokers, artists, and hotel staff.  The report strongly implied that all navigation and non-navigation who benefit from the system should contribute to funding its improvement.  Good luck on trying to establish a credible argument that would convince minimum-wage workers including waiters, bartenders and hotel staff to contribute to maintenance of a lock and dam they may not even be aware of.
 
Cost savings
     While the source of new funding is not resolved by this study, cost savings have been – enhancements range from $51.56 million to $137.97 million, depending upon option.

Option A - The lowest cost savings are projected to build a 1,200’ lock at La Grange, at the southern end of the Illinois River; $51.6 million.

Option B - More cost savings would result in the construction of 1,200 foot locks at La Grange and Peoria (both at the southern end); $53.8 million.

Option C - Still more savings would result in rehabilitation of locks along the river instead of upgrades; $54.3 million.

Option D - Cost savings of $94.5 million would result in a new 1,200’ lock at La Grange plus lock rehabilitation.

Option E - The greatest savings of $137.9 million would result in new locks at La Grange and Peoria plus rehabilitation.
 
     Tom Mueller of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board said the economic information gleaned from the study shows the “importance of our inland waterway transportation system to Illinois and surrounding states and will prove to be invaluable as we continue to advocate for future investments.”
      The four states, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri, which were not included in the Illinois study, had a combined waterway tonnage of 128.1 million tons with a collective commodity value of $23.41 billion (WCI, COE 2014).  It would be interesting to know what an Illinois Chamber of Commerce-type study would reveal for the entire Upper Mississippi River valley.
 
     The complete Illinois report can be found by clicking on this link.  
 
Disclaimer:  Thoughts and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author and not necessarily those of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association or its members.
 
 
 
Other items of interest...

*   Mark your calendars for the evening of September 21 and the annual meeting of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association (UMWA) to be held at Southview Country Club in South St. Paul.  Invitations are going out this week.

*   The day after the new St. Croix Crossing bridge was opened, people gathered at the Minneapolis Emergency Operations Training Facility to mark the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis.  A large, twisted chunk of that failed bridge was dedicated as a reminder of what infrastructure failure can mean in lives lost and economic disruption. 13 people died and 145 were injured August 1, 2007 when the bridge fell.

*   River users usually call it, “Lock and Dam 26,” or perhaps just, “26.”  But the official name for the structure is the “Melvin Price Lock and Dam.”  Riverbender.com recently told its readers about the lock’s namesake, former Congressman Melvin Price, a life-long resident of the area and river proponent.
 
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