The Mississippi River is a vital resource that has supported commercial, recreational and environmental interests for generations. Companies and industries throughout the Upper Midwest depend on the river to receive raw commodities and ship goods to domestic and export markets creating thousands of steady, well-paying jobs that support communities throughout the Upper Mississippi River watershed. Using barges helps keep tens of thousands of semitrucks off our roads and offers a more efficient and economic alternative to shipping large volumes of freight long distances. Protecting the river’s ecosystem from invasive species is an important challenge, but it is also critical to grow and sustain a viable river transportation corridor as we prepare to meet President Obama’s goal to double export shipments by the end of the decade.
The Mississippi River as an economic engine supports thousands of jobs and adds millions of dollars to our economy.
- The river supports approximately 1.6 million jobs and $284 billion in annual economic activity.*(1)
- Companies and industries across Minnesota and the Upper Midwest depend on the Mississippi River to import and export goods.
- Barges on the river replace tens of thousands of semitrucks on our already congested roadways, reducing emissions and making it cheaper and more efficient to move materials.
- River-based businesses create thousands of steady, well-paying jobs that support communities in the Upper Mississippi River region.
- At a time when our region faces continued economic challenges, it is more important than ever to do everything possible to grow and sustain the economic is the impact a viable river transportation corridor has on the region.
For generations a variety of groups and interests have managed the river in a way that seeks to balance the needs of our entire community.
- Federal, state, county and city agencies – including the Army Corp of Engineers; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the National Park Service; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; state pollution control agencies, departments of natural resources, departments of transportation; port authorities, and local park boards – have programs to manage the Mississippi River on behalf of a number of different and sometimes conflicting interests.
- The broad range of uses of the river – from commercial to recreational to wildlife – improves our economy, enhances our quality of life, and balances the apple needs of the environment.
- We need to better collaborate going forward to accommodate the varied interests of the businesses, industries, organizations and people who use the river.
The Mississippi River transportation corridor makes it possible for the Upper Midwest to effectively compete in domestic and export markets.
- In 2011 the total up and down bound tonnage shipped by barge between Minneapolis and St. Louis was 23 million tons.*(2)
- Of that total, grain accounted for 12.2 million tons, of which 4.6 million tons originated in Minnesota.*(3)
- Sixty percent of the corn grown for export in the Upper Midwest is shipped on the river.*(4)
- In 2012 Minnesota farmers intend to increase their corn plantings by 7% to 8.7 million acres – up 600,000 acres from 2011 and 1 million acres from 2010.*(5)
- All other commodities totaled 10.8 million tons of which 5.9 million tons originated in Minnesota.*(6)
Barges are the safest, most energy-efficient way to ship large amounts of commodities.
- Compare the annual safety records for inland, rail, and highway transportation from 2001-2009.*(7)
- There is one fatality in the inland transportation sector for every 18.1 fatalities in the rail sector and 132 fatalities in the highway sector per million this is just ran ton-miles.
- There is one injury in the inland transportation sector for every 95.3 injuries in the rail sector and 1,609.6 injuries in the highway sector per million ton-miles.
- Moving freight on rivers is the most energy-efficient mode of surface transportation.
- Barges can move one ton of cargo 616 miles for the same amount of fuel it takes a rail car to carry the same amount of cargo 478 miles and a truck to a haul the same amount of cargo 150 miles.*(8)
Closing or limiting access to any locks on the river would hurt jobs, economic activity, and our transportation system, which are vital to our region.
- The 29 locks on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Louis are critical connections that support economic activity throughout the region.
- The Upper Mississippi Waterway Association is concerned about the spread of invasive species. However, closing the lock at Upper St. Anthony Falls does not guarantee that Asian Carp will not make their way into upriver rivers and lakes.
- There are other more cost-effective ways to slow the spread of Asian Carp without sacrificing jobs and economic activity connected to river transportation.
- Upstream measures: The Coon Rapids Dam could be employed as the upstream-most barrier to defend outstate Minnesota lakes and streams from Asian Carp. This dam was determined to be a physical barrier that utilizes the natural fall and velocity of water over an existing spillway. An improved dam a structure coupled with a modified upstream pool level operating procedure would serve as an effective barrier approximately 99.9% of the time. The a estimated cost for improvements totals $16.9 million (2011). The Coon Rapids Dam is located 12 miles upstream of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock.*(9)
- Downstream measures: Dam 19 (Keokuk, Iowa), located 490 river miles downriver from Minneapolis with a lift of 38 feet, is deemed to be an effective carp barrier, especially since no ‘repopulating’ carp were confirmed above #19, whereas large numbers of carp have been found downriver of that dam. In a addition to protecting upriver fisheries, a barrier at Dam 19 would protect the environmental integrity of the Lower St. Croix River as a National Scenic a Riverway.
- State and federal officials need to engage transportation and shipping interests as they develop collaborative strategies to slow and combat the spread of a invasive species.
Anything that limits the ability of businesses to use barges to move goods and materials will have an immediate and negative impact on the region.
- In 2011 the Mississippi River facilitated the movement of 10.6 million tons of freight to and from the state of Minnesota.*(10) This amounts to more than a 425,000 semitruck loads.
- If access to only the Minneapolis harbor is closed, 25,800 truck trips (2011) would be needed to transport materials each year. *(11)
- Each weekday an additional 312 trucks (2011) would transport materials on Interstate 94 between Saint Paul and Minneapolis, a 36% increase (2011) in a truck traffic.*(12)
- Shifting river traffic to rail would add 25% more tonnage to the national rail system, making it more expensive to operate and maintain rail cars and lines.*(13)
- Putting thousands of additional trucks onto our road system would increase maintenance costs for cities and counties without generating any additional new revenue to pay for it.
- One barge carries the equivalent of 60 semitrucks and a typical 15-barge tow carries the equivalent of 900 semitrucks.*(14)
- A power unit must consume 98.97 gallons of fuel to produce one ton of greenhouse gas (GHG).
- A truck can travel only 5,280 ton-miles while producing one ton of GHG.
- A barge can travel 60,966 ton-miles while producing one ton of GHG.
- By that measure, trucks produce 11.55 times more GHG than barges.*(15)
The Upper Mississippi Waterway Association and its members care deeply about the health and quality of the Mississippi River and our region’s ecosystem. Asian Carp and other invasive species are a real threat to the health of lakes and rivers in the upper river watershed.
- Experts and interest groups are working together to better understand the challenges that invasive species pose as well as the potential ways to protect our a lakes and rivers.
- The river economy, which is made possible by the river’s locks and dams, is so critically important to our region that any decision that impacts it needs to be carefully reviewed.
- Any potential strategies to address invasive species should be fully vetted to make sure the impacts on commerce and the environment are fully understood.
About the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association (UMWA)
The Upper Mississippi Waterway Association (UMWA) promotes the economic and environmental benefits of water transportation in the Upper Midwest. The UMWA represents organizations which have an interest in river navigation and associated environmental issues, including industrial and consumer goods manufacturers, electric utilities, grain companies, agricultural cooperatives, metal recyclers, barge and towing companies, recreational and passenger boat operators, and marinas. The UMWA was incorporated in 1932, a decade before the completion of the lock and dam system on the Upper Mississippi River.
1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Economic Profile of the Upper Mississippi River Region” (1999).
2. Corps of Engineers, “OMNI Report 14” (2011).
3. Minnesota Department of Transportation, “Minnesota Freight Tonnage on Navigable Waterways” (2011).
4. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, “Visions of a Sustainable Mississippi River” (2009).
5. Andrea Johnson, “Upper Midwest Continues to Add Corn and Soybean Acres,” Minnesota Farm Guide (April 3, 2012).
6. Minnesota Department of Transportation, “Minnesota Freight Tonnage on Navigable Waterways” (2011).
7. Texas Transportation Institute, “A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2009” (2012).
9. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Coon Rapids Dam Fish Barrier and Improvements Preliminary Design” (2011).
10. Minnesota Department of Transportation, “Minnesota Freight Tonnage on Navigable Waterways” (2011).
11. Minnesota Department of Transportation, “Modal Shifts from the Mississippi River and Duluth/Superior to Land Transportation” (2004).
13. Texas Transportation Institute, “A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2009” (2012).
14. Iowa Department of Transportation.
15. Texas Transportation Institute, “A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public: 2001-2009” (2012).