The following is the text of a press release issued Nov. 16 by American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc.:
(ST. LOUIS) — Today representatives of the barge and shipping industries, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard, held a press conference on the Mississippi River near St. Louis to address navigation and shipping concerns, as well as government-industry cooperation in managing the Mississippi River during continued drought and low water conditions.
A developing situation on the Mississippi River could effectively bring commerce to a halt in early December.
Water releases from dams on the upper Missouri River are planned to be significantly scaled back later this month and these reductions are expected to negatively impact the Mississippi River water level between St. Louis and Cairo, IL beginning December 1. Of particular concern are hazardous rock formations near Thebes and Grand Tower, IL, which threaten navigation when water levels drop to anticipated, near historic lows. The rock formations, combined with the reduced flows from the Missouri River, will prohibit the transport of essential goods along this critical point in the river, effectively stopping barge transportation on the middle Mississippi River around December 10.
"Hindrance to, or potentially even cessation of, navigation on the Mississippi River would bring a ripple effect of economic loss that would be felt most heavily in the Midwest, but would endanger our national prosperity as well. Slowing down or even severing the country’s inland waterway superhighway would imperil the shipment of critical cargo for export, significantly delay products for domestic use, threaten manufacturing production and power generation, and negatively impact jobs up and down the river," said Craig Philip, Chief Executive Officer, Ingram Barge Company in. Nashville.
"The Mississippi River is especially critical for the agricultural community, moving 60 percent of our nation’s grain exports. Closure of the Mississippi next month would mean that about 300 million bushels of agricultural products worth $2.3 billion will be delayed reaching its destination," echoed George Foster, President, JB Marine Service, Inc. in St. Louis.
Other participants in today's press conference were Major General John W. Peabody, Commander, Mississippi Valley Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and President, Mississippi River Commission, and Rear Admiral Roy A. Nash, Commander, Eighth District, U.S. Coast Guard.
It is estimated that five million barrels of domestically produced crude oil would need to be replaced by imported crude oil at a cost of $545 million in additional imports over the months of December and January. Additionally, about 300 million bushels of agricultural products worth $2.3 billion will be delayed reaching their intended markets and 3.8 million tons of coal would similarly be delayed over that two month period. The financial value of all of the commodities expected to be delayed in December and January could exceed $7 billion, and losses would likely be compounded with potential impacts on affected manufacturing industries, power generation and related jobs.
The American Waterways Operators is the national trade association representing the nation’s tugboat, towboat and barge industry which operates along the rivers, coasts, Great Lakes and harbors of the United States. Barge transportation serves the nation as the safest, most environmentally friendly and most economical mode of freight transportation. For more information about AWO, please visit www.americanwaterways.com.
Waterways Council, Inc. is the national public policy organization advocating for a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways. Its members include shippers and receivers of bulk commodities, waterways carriers, ports, shipping associations, agriculture groups, organized labor, advocacy groups, and environmental and conservation organizations. For more information on WCI, please visit www.waterwayscouncil.org.