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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 31, 2012

 

Metropolitan Council Report Shows Closing

Mississippi River Locks Would Eliminate Jobs

and Cost the Area Millions Annually

 

Report significantly underestimates truck traffic by

over 11,000 trucks due to St. Anthony Lock Closure

 

Report authors recommend additional research to investigate several key areas of concern

 

MINNEAPOLIS – A recently completed economic impact report shows that shutting down the St. Anthony Lock in Minneapolis would eliminate 127 jobs and result in an annual loss of more than $40 million in wages and economic output.  The report was completed by the Metropolitan Council as part of the ongoing effort to review options to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota.  Closing the St. Anthony Lock and Dam is being considered as one potential option to halt the upriver movement of Asian carp.

 

While the report indicates that closing the lock would have a significant impact on the local economy, the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association (UMWA) believes that the Metropolitan Council report grossly underestimated the other ways closing the lock would impact the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  For example, the report suggests there would be an increase of 4,890 truck trips per season if barge traffic was stopped.  Based on data from businesses that depend on commercial access to the lock, UMWA found that shutting down the lock would force more than 16,000 truck trips on the already-crowded streets and highways, more than three times the amount the report suggests.  This would put additional strain on city streets and neighborhoods in Minneapolis and increase congestion on the metro area freeway system.

 

“Minnesota is already struggling to keep the jobs we already have, yet this report shows that shutting down the lock would eliminate jobs and cost our economy millions of dollars each year,” said Al Christopherson, chairperson of the UMWA board of directors.  “We understand the risk and potential threat invasive species may pose for the economy, but we need to make sure we have complete and accurate information before deciding to shut down a lock.  If this report shows us anything, it’s that we need to make sure we fully understand the entire economic picture before making any decisions about the locks.”

 

The report has been sent to the Asian Carp Task Force and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The multi-agency task force is being led by the Department of Natural Resources and was created by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton as part of a coordinated process to develop comprehensive strategies to stop the spread of Asian carp.  The group is looking at a number of different ways to address the issue, including asking Congress to give the Army Corps of Engineers emergency authority to close the St. Anthony Lock and Dam or the Ford Dam if carp are detected nearby.

 

“Our members care deeply about the health and quality of the Mississippi River and our region’s ecosystem,” Christopherson said.  “Asian carp and other invasive species are a real threat to the health of lakes and rivers in the upper river watershed.  We hope that any potential strategies to address invasive species are completely vetted to make sure the impacts on commerce and the environment are fully understood.  It’s clear from this report that more homework needs to be done.”

 

Economic impact of the Mississippi River

Companies and industries throughout the Upper Midwest depend on the river to receive raw commodities and ship goods to domestic and international markets.  Gravel, fertilizer, salt, cement, steel, aggregates and coal are the major commodities shipped northbound on the Mississippi River.  Approximately 4.6 million tons of grain was exported on the river from Minneapolis in 2011.  Sixty percent of the corn grown for export in the Upper Midwest is shipped on the river.  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.

 

Tonnage by Type, Upper St. Anthony Lock, 2011 Description

Tons

Percent

Sand, gravel, stone, and crushed rock

419,200

55

Iron ore, iron steel waste, and scrap

174,800

23

Coal

88,200

11

Chemical fertilizers

46,200

6

Primary iron and steel products

19,500

2

Manufactured equipment and machinery

7,843

1

Other chemical-related products

6,000

< 1

Crude materials

1,500

< 1

Primary manufactured goods

1,500

< 1

Total

764,951

100

 

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 haul the same amount of cargo 150 miles.  One barge carries the equivalent of 60 semitrucks, and a typical 15-barge tow carries the equivalent of 900 semitrucks.

 

Increased cost to consumers
Diverting commercial river traffic would increase transportation costs, which would be ultimately passed on to the consumer.  The price of concrete for construction projects would skyrocket due to increased costs of sand and gravel, which are shipped on the river.  Fertilizer prices would also increase because of added transportation costs that would affect the agriculture industry throughout the state.

-more-

Businesses rely on the St. Anthony Lock

Several major businesses in Minneapolis rely on the St. Anthony Lock and Dam to receive and transport goods.  Northern Metal Recycling uses its terminal on the Mississippi River to export shredded metals from a large on-site processing plant.  The Aggregate Industries facility is used for receiving and trans-shipping sand and gravel for making concrete and lime used by the construction and agriculture industries.  The city-owned Minneapolis Upper Harbor Terminal is operated by River Services Inc. and facilitates the transportation of a variety of commodities up and down the river.

 

The report identified some key impacts for existing businesses, including a lack of sites for coal and fertilizer storage, the impact of additional truck traffic on specific routes, and how existing rules and regulations would affect the siting of new facilities that would have to be built to replace businesses impacted by the lock closure.  If the lock were to close, businesses that depend on barge access could also face additional impacts due to necessary supply chain changes and localized traffic problems.  These issues could force businesses to make serious adjustments to their operational processes.

 

More research needed

Because the timeline and scope of the report was limited, the UMWA recommends additional research to investigate several key areas of concern, including:

-          The capacity of manufacturers, processors, and energy-related businesses to adapt changes in the supply chain

-          The apparent lack of available sites for coal and fertilizer storage and distribution on the Mississippi and Minnesota River systems

-          The potential need or opportunity to replace some of the capacity and special functions provided by the Minneapolis Upper Harbor Terminal

-          The potential impact of additional truck traffic on specific routes

-          Identification of reasonable timeframes for adjustment

-          Public sector involvement in siting and permitting

 

How the report was conducted

The Metropolitan Council hired consultants to conduct the research and economic modeling used in the study.  Congress would be required to approve any decision to close a lock.  The authors of the study were asked to assume that the upper lock at St. Anthony Falls would be the subject of that action.

 

Click here to read the full report.

 

About the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association

The Upper Mississippi Waterway Association (UMWA) is an association of waterway operators, shippers, and other waterway interests working together to promote the economic and environmental benefits of water transportation in the Upper Midwest.  UMWA works with members and other stakeholders to ensure that the Upper Mississippi River navigation system is used and maintained in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

 

UMWA represents interests in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Members include industrial and consumer goods manufacturers, electric utilities, grain companies, agricultural cooperatives, metal recyclers, barge and towing companies, recreational and passenger boat operators, marinas, and others having an interest in river navigation and associated environmental issues.  To learn more, please visit umwa.net

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