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A publication of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association.
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September 2018 
 
Back to the future 1971

(Editor’s note) Every once in a while - say at an organization’s 92nd annual meeting - it’s good to remind ourselves that UMWA has a long record of working hard in the interests of the waterway industry. In our lead article and in the Executive Director’s column, this edition of Waterways looks back on a couple of important events in UMWA history. 
 
     Hubert Humphrey supported the inland waterway system because, he said, it was good for rural America. When he spoke to a combined meeting of the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association and the National Waterways Conference September 16, 1971, Senator Humphrey was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural Development.  

Major Role for Water
     Although that was almost 50 years ago, his prescient remarks are perhaps even more relevant today.
      “I believe water resource programs can and should play a major role in the nation’s rural re-development,” Humphrey told the gathering at the St. Paul Hilton.
     “These are the kind of public investments that have contributed to our nation’s phenomenal growth and development.  Therefore you can understand why I have so little time for those who talk of such public investments as ‘pork barrel’ or too costly for government to underwrite.
     And we need to do more.  Further development of our waterways and our other natural resources in a manner consistent with their protection and concern for our environment should always remain as an important national goal.  And as far as money is concerned, we must – as our forefathers did – be willing to think big. With a trillion dollar economy today, this means we must think in 10 and 100 billion dollar terms.”

Made the case
     Although he was “preaching to the choir,” Humphrey then laid out the case UMWA members have made many times.
     “Without the availability of low-cost water transportation on the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, Minnesota farmers could be at a severe disadvantage.  Our state is located hundreds of miles from major domestic markets and a thousand miles from seaports along the coasts.  Barges on the river and bulk carriers on the Lakes help to keep our farm products competitive. We are able, therefore, to sell more, and our farmers get more for what they sell.”
 
(Above)  A 'double locking' in progress at Lock and Dam 11,  Dubuque, Iowa.  Marinas above this structure were surprised by an unexpected pool drop last month.  (COE photo)
 
Unexpected Pool Drop A Reminder

     A lot of folks along the Upper Mississippi were reminded recently that the consistent river levels they see and have come to expect, are made possible by river infrastructure.  Late last month the Corps of Engineers dramatically illustrated the importance of the locks and dams to recreational boaters, municipal systems and other users when it was forced to close gates at Lock and Dam 10 for a time to maintain stable pool levels above.  Some users, particularly marinas and recreational boaters were surprised by the low water.

      The General Manager at American Marine in Dubuque told US News and World Report that some of his rental boats were left high and dry by the drop.
     "We've never actually seen this happen," he said. "It's something we really can't plan for."
 
(Editor’s Note) UMWA was founded 92 years ago because industry members saw a need for an association to articulate the need for a nine-foot channel on the Upper Mississippi and to work to make it reality.  In the years since, up to the present day, UMWA members have regularly come together to fight for, or in some cases against, legislation, regulation and policies impacting commercial navigation.  This Executive Director’s column from September 2000 details one such effort. 
 
From the Executive Director…
 
     Earlier this month, UMWA asked the governor of Wisconsin to continue funding the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission.
 
     Institutionally, it may seem odd that a commercial navigation trade association is asking a state to continue funding an agency some feel is accustomed to operating beyond its already loosely defined charter.  However, in asking the Governor to consider a continuation of BAC funding, UMWA’s Executive Committee recognized several fundamental issues facing its members and activity on the Upper Mississippi River.
 
Environmental issues 
   First, it recognized that many people in the upper river valley react strongly to environmental issues.  Never mind that public gathering places such as green spaces surrounding the state Capitol are untidy and littered following a weekend public celebration of Earth Day.  Or that trash is routinely tossed onto streets and highways by those who care enough to save the earth, but can’t be bothered with cleaning up after themselves.  The fact remains that, on an individual level, there appears to be a deep, almost selfish expectation that another’s purse will provide us all with natural resource-based recreational opportunities in the name of protecting the environment – the proposed white water slalom in Minneapolis’ upper harbor readily comes to mind.  Such sentiments, noble or otherwise, cannot be ignored.
 
     Secondly, it recognized that the BAC, by virtue of its 1965 enabling compact, does not have the power to make or enforce laws.  Instead, it acts as a catalyst, facilitator and advocate for conservation and development in the public interest in the Mississippi and St. Croix River valleys.  Rather than joining those who advocate BAC’s end for possibly exceeding the scope of their compact, we are acting more responsibly by urging them to limit their involvement to issues within the constraints of their authority.
 
     Thirdly, the Executive Committee recognizes that the BAC has a public charge to, among other things, efficiently address challenges generated by regional population growth, potential conflicts between recreational pursuits and economic development, and society’s every present nemesis - the issue of human impact on the environment.  Given Wisconsin’s strong environmental bias, the BAC, whether through agenda or fortunate accident, has successfully drawn attention to the economic vitality and importance of what many in Wisconsin see as their insignificant back door:  Mississippi River ports.
 
BAC provided resources      
     Lastly, it recognized that as a public policy tool, the Boundary Area Commission provides resources for Wisconsin legislators and members of its Congressional delegation, enabling politicians to better understand regional river-related issues, and effectively allocate resource for the benefit of Wisconsin and its citizens.  While much of the BAC’s input to legislators is undoubtedly pro environment, we feel that on balance, they have honored their charge to be an advocate for conservation and development in the public interest.
 
     The BAC’s ten unpaid commissioners appointed by the two Governors, interact between citizens, agencies and various levels of government.  For more than two decades and several changes of the guard by both UMWA and BAC, we have worked with their staff and Commissioners and participated in their meetings and activities.  The results may not always have been to our total satisfaction, but through it all, both sides seem to have worked to maintain institutional integrity and respect.
 
     Recently, as part of their interactive responsibility, the BAC invited industry to discuss scheduling of towboats on the Upper Mississippi River.  After listening to why towboat scheduling is thwarted by market forces, not closed-mindedness, the BAC’s Mississippi River Regional Committee adopted a motion to drop lock scheduling as a discussion item.
 
     In addition, earlier this year, BAC commissioners attending boating safety and informational seminars, asked how pool draw downs, intended to facilitate new vegetation growth and otter environmental objectives, would impact commercial navigation.

 BAC ended
     Since this writing, Wisconsin’s Governor McCollum signed Executive Budget 2001-2003 containing a measure that ends the 36-year interstate compact between Wisconsin and Minnesota on the states’ common boundary, primarily the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. It also disbands the ten-member Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission, made up of citizen appointees, and its five-member staff.
 
     At this point you may be asking why, given the recent demise of the BAC, we are taking up this space and your time to even discuss our support for them.  Our answer is this:  given that this is probably your first knowledge of this issue, we want to reaffirm with you that even in light of its demise, we stand by our initial support of the BAC for a basic, fundamental and self-serving reason – with the elimination of an agency the industry sees as a sometimes-ally, there is a strong possibility that influences will now be defaulted to those more radical elements that decide institutional policies first, and ask questions later, if at all.  “The devil you know is preferred to the one you don’t.”

 
UMWA Members Featured

     In its September 10 print edition and online the Waterways Journal and writer Frank McCormack extensively profiled  the St. Paul Port Authority and Upper River Services.
     McCormack noted the Port Authority’s diverse services and interests and Upper River Services history and its role as a service provider and, “the face of the barge industry in the Twin Cities region.”
     McCormack concluded his profile on the St. Paul Port Authority by looking back and ahead.
     “Both waterside and in the community, the St. Paul Port Authority has played an integral role in the Twin Cities region for close to nine decades. And with the innovative programs in the community and smart investments in its terminals, the port authority is set to continue its legacy of leadership far into the future.”

     UMWA Chair Paul Freeman and Treasurer Kathryn Sarnecki are quoted extensively in the piece.

     The Upper River Services article talked about all the years URS has been serving the Twin Cities, its participation in Project Green Fleet and the summer life saving efforts of URS personnel which were recently recognized by the Coast Guard, the St. Paul Fire Department and the Minnesota DNR.  
 
Additional Items of Interest...

 *   In case you were unable to attend the dedication ceremony at the nearly completed Olmsted Locks and Dam August 30, the Defense Visual Distribution Service of the Department of Defense taped the whole thing.  The wicket lifter Keen was christened with Champagne and rather than a ribbon cutting, a lock gate was festooned with a ribbon that parted when the gate opened for the first official lock-through.  If you don’t want to sit through the whole tape, the ‘action’ happens about 1 hour and 20 minutes in.

*     The Panama Canal Authority recently released a short video to mark 104 years since the original opening. 

 *    Mondaq, an international free information aggregator and provider recently told its readers about the European Union’s effort to promote water transport. “The advantages of inland waterway transport are numerous. IWT is a safe mode of transport with low costs, a lot of spare capacity, no congestion, low noise levels and low energy consumption and a low carbon footprint. Barges and pushed barges can transport more and heavier goods per distance unit (tkm) than any other type of land transport and has a significant role to play in reducing road and rail traffic.”

*     Most newspapers get a large share of their content from the Associated Press.  So a recent story on the precarious condition of the Inland Waterway System got a lot of play across the country.  AP said, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has kept the system humming along through rigorous maintenance. However, there is no plan in place for the replacement of the structures — which increasingly is raising concerns. ‘We’re operating on borrowed time now, and we shouldn’t push our luck,” said U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa. ‘I know these are big, expensive projects, but eventually, we have to be thinking about replacing them and building brand new locks.’”
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