U.S. Army Corps Kept Traffic Moving on Mississippi During Drought of 2012

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 12:00 am  

“The Mississippi River Caucus will look at ways that Congress can be helpful to the cities and towns along the river to improve their economies and their qualities of life, and to better respond to floods and other threats.”

Debra Colbert, senior vice president of the Waterways Council Inc., of Arlington, Va., would like to see more work done on the Mississippi River to keep the shipping lanes flowing.

“It can’t just be dredging,” said Colbert, whose group lobbies for carriers and ports.

“We are going to need to figure out water sources and if there’s a way to always maintain the channel for navigation.”

The Waterways Council will lobby Congress for funding to improve the network of lock and dams on the Mississippi River.

She said her group will ask the federal government to pay $380 million a year for the next 20 years for the renovations. The river barge industry already pays about $110 million in diesel fuel tax and is willing to pay more for the upgrades.

“The infrastructure requires reinvestment,” Colbert said.

“The inland waterway system is just as important as any other transportation network and system. So we need to make sure that it’s properly funded for the future.”

Having a low Mississippi River hurts the Arkansas ports along it, said Gene Higginbotham, executive director of the Arkansas Waterways Commission.

“Anything coming out of a port in Arkansas on the Mississippi is having a light load,” he said. “It’s just not as efficient.”

He fears shippers could start looking for other alternatives to transporting goods if they have to spend more on moving items on the Mississippi River.

The Corps’ Petersen said that at the end of 2011, he and others knew 2012 would be a low-water level year for the Mississippi, even though in 2011 there had been so much water it flooded.



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