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A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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December 2017 
Locking up an up and down season

     Lock gates closed on the 2017 Upper Mississippi River shipping season Dec. 7, when the Mv. Bernard G. headed south out of Lock and Dam 10, Guttenburg, Iowa, with eleven barges of grain and soybeans.  The last boat out of St. Paul was the Mv. Pere Marquette with 5 barges, also carrying grain and soybeans. 

Opened March 9
     The season on the upper opened March 9, when the Mv. Stephen L. Colby came in with 12 barges.
     In between open and close dates, it’s been a challenging season on the entire Mississippi.  After some early delays due to high water, levels dropped just when new crop harvest was making its way to the upper river.  Then for a short time in early September, both main and auxiliary chambers at Lock and Dam 26 were closed after cracks were found in the main gates and scheduled work kept the smaller chamber closed.  At one point 19 northbound and 17 southbound tows were left idling above and below the lock.

L&D 52 problems
     The Corps of Engineers also was busy with one of its biggest dredges working near Thebes, Illinois, to maintain a 9-foot channel depth.  Work continues in that area to blast riverbed rocks that threaten shipping whenever levels drop.
But most of the headlines this summer concerned Lock and Dam 52 on the Ohio River whose ancient infrastructure caused three prime-time delays. (See November 2017 Waterways for information)

Delays getting worse
     The American Society of Civil Engineers says lock delays in 2000 averaged 64 minutes, while in 2014 the waits almost doubled to 121 minutes.  And, for what it’s worth,        AccuWeather Meterologist Dale Mohler predicts a colder and drier than average winter on the Mississippi River with a “not particularly high” flood threat next spring.
     During this season of actual delays, the Mid-America Freight Coalition came out with a report detailing what prolonged closures at four key locks and dams would mean to the economy.
     Now that things are shut down for winter, the Corps of Engineers will begin dewatering and maintenance at Lock and Dam 7 near LaCrosse, Wis.

 
(Above)  This Corps of Engineers photo by Ben Tubbs shows the Mv. Bernard G. Pushing the upper half of its tow out of L&D 10 on Dec. 7, closing the shipping season.

 
From the Executive Director...

     (Editor's Note) With his years of experience both in industry and as Executive Director of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association, Russ Eichman follows river-related developments with a critical eye and deep understanding of their less obvious implications. 
     This year, as he has since assuming the position, Russ has taken the time to share some of his insights with readers of this publication. With that in mind, we thought we’d take over this space for one month to review some of the issues he raised and views he shared in his 2017 Executive Director’s Columns.
     Russ’s Columns and other UMWA information are available online at www.umwa.net.  Click on “Publications.”
     January’s column was a detailed insider’s look at the recently signed WIIN Act (PL114-322) and some possible funding alternatives. 
     In February Russ looked at the Trump Administrations early draft of the top 50 infrastructure projects that was put together by a Washington-based consulting firm.  The column said that, according to the Kansas City Star, the president’s team gave that list to the National Governors Association.  However, Russ said, the White House told the paper the documents were not “official” documents and another source told the Star that working drafts of the list were still being assembled with input FROM the National Governors Conference.
     March’s Executive Directors column was a look at how other countries around the globe have kept their waterways functional and affordable. Russ said, “Although UK’s (United Kingdom) navigable canals and waterway mileage total less than one-half of that in the U.S., the similarities:   air quality advantage of barges; multi-use of waterways; and a favorable return-on-investment, reflect an almost universal attraction between people and water.  Yet, the fact that the UK has developed its canal system into an annual $4.87 billion economic and recreational engine supporting 34,000 jobs with five World Heritage Sites is certainly deserving of our attention and respect.”
     In April he talked about a bill the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District had been able to get introduced in the State Senate to authorize state financial assistance in managing a District-owned site for dredge material removed by the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) and private dredgers. 
     May’s Column was a look at the NIMBY (not in my back yard) phenomenon and how it impacts the search for dredge material sites.
     June continued Russ’s focus on the critical dredge material issue with a close look at the early draft of the St. Paul District’s 40-year plan for the future material.
     And July’s column gave readers a deeper look at some studies done on dredging issues in Pool 2 and Pool 4.
     In August Russ looked back at an Illinois Chamber of Commerce report on the value and significance of the Illinois River system, including supporting more than 1.7 million jobs and providing $102-billion in wages.
     With more known about its contents, September’s feature took another look at the WIIN Act and the opportunities it may open for the St. Paul COE District and its dredged material plans.
     In October Russ gave Waterways readers some thought provoking material on “four ways to measure value” derived from the Mississippi River System.
     And in answer to some decision makers and others who were calling for an end to the Jones Act, Russ used his November column to lay out some very strong, factual arguments about how and why the Jones Act is important to national security and the economy.  The alternative, he indicated, would be to trust America’s future shipping needs to foreign counties, some of them potentially adversarial.
     Again, Executive Directors Columns and past issues are posted under the “Publications” link of the www.umwa.net web site.
 

 
Other Items of Interest...

*   As noted in the November 13, edition of The Waterways Journal, Gerry Brown,  former UMWA president and good friend to many in the organization, passed away Oct. 31.  A recognized industry leader, Gerry was President of Cargo Carriers and also was part of - or leader in - many industry groups and chaired the Inland Waterways Users Group. 


*   The St. Paul District Army Corps of Engineers says staff members are currently reviewing alternatives received after a public comment period and its draft dredged material management plan for the Mississippi River’s lower Pool 4 is being delayed.  District Commander Col. Sam Calkins says,” Although we’re not ready to release our plan Dec. 15 as anticipated, I believe the new plan currently being developed answers a lot of the communities’ concerns.” 

*   Looks like the end for the Dredge William A. Thompson that has been tied up at St. Feriole Island, near Winona, Minn., since retirement in 2012.  The nonprofit Community Development Alternatives (CDA) made a proposal in 2011 to take the boat from the federal government and convert it into a museum.  But the CDA leadership now says it may be forced to scrap the Thompson.

*   It’s probably just bull.   A TV station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recently was sent photos allegedly showing a bull shark (capable of living in fresh water) in the Mississippi near Harpers Ferry.  But Andy Allison of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium says a bull shark could possibly make the journey north, but would have trouble with the river’s cold temperatures.

 
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