Mid-America Freight Coalition has shared new research that quantifies what we already knew; aging river locks and dams on the Mississippi are threatening the economy with billions of dollars in lost jobs and reduced activity.
The USDA recently conducted a study on the economic implications to agriculture if something were to happen at either Lock & Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi or La Grange Lock & Dam on the Illinois River waterway. These locations were chosen because they represent the overall system and because of their key location.
“These are both 600 foot locks even though modern tows are 1,200 feet-long. They are also at the lower reaches of the waterways,” said Ken Hartman, chair of the National Corn Growers Association‘s Market Access Action Team. “The southbound traffic here already contributes to long delays because of the lock size. But a disruption of any length of time related to their deteriorating condition would be catastrophic for family farmers who are increasingly dependent on exports and trade.”
Among several important findings, the report concludes a L&D 25 closure could result in a loss of more than 7,000 jobs, $1.3 billion of labor income and about $2.4 billion of economic activity (total industry output) annually. Similarly, closing La Grange Lock & Dam could result in a reduction of 5,500 jobs, $900 million of labor income and $1.8 billion of economic activity annually.
“A majority of these locks were built in the 1930s and have surpassed their designed lifespan,” Hartman notes. “With growing demand being made on the system upgrading the navigational efficiency of these waterways is a priority for corn farmers and NCGA, especially when most of our prospective customers are now overseas.”
A total of 36 locks and dams, 28 on the Upper Mississippi River, are maintained at a 9-foot depth navigation channel for barge transportation.