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Unformatted text preview: C – 3/6 Collapse of inland waterway infrastructure crushes US agricultural exports
Katie Micik, W riter at Agfax, 2012
(January 25, “Waterway Lock Failure Would be Severe Economic Blow, study finds”,
A failure at one of six focus locks in a new study would cost agricultural producers between
$900,000 and $45 million depending on how long the lock was out of commission. A three-month lock
closure on the nation’s inland waterway system would increase the cost of transporting grains and
oilseeds by $71.6 million, according to new study funded by the United Soybean Board and the checkoff’s
Global Opportunities program. “Should a catastrophic failure of lock and dam infrastructure occur,
agricultural producers — and consequently the American consumer — will suffer severe economic
distress,” the report stated. Barges carry 89% of the soybeans and 91% of the corn that U.S. companies export though the Gulf of Mexico each year. A lock closure on one of the nation’s
main barge highways — the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois Rivers — that lasted for three months
would shift 5.5 million tons of grains and oilseeds to other modes of transportation,
adding stress to congested highways and increasing railcar demand, driving up freight
prices. The 352-page study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University took
a lock-by-lock look at the inland waterway system. It estimated the economic impact on crop prices paid to producers
and transportation costs incurred by shifting modes. It delves into detail on six focus locks and even identifies the
crop reporting districts used by USDA and congressional districts that would see the biggest drop in commodity
prices. It identified bottlenecks and tracked how long barges have to wait to pass through locks. (A PDF of the study
can be found here: http://www.unitedsoybean.org/…) If the LaGrange lock on the Illinois River failed, corn prices
would drop $0.70 per ton and soybean prices would drop $2.45 per ton for the Illinois crop reporting district
composed of LaSalle, McLean, Bureau and other counties in the state’s 11th Congressional District. (Note: this study
uses current districts, not new districts that go into effect in -the next election.) S witching to rail and trucks would cost
$4.3 million in that crop reporting district alone. Most locks were built to last 50 years, and more than half of U.S.
locks are older than that. More than one-third of the locks are more than 70 years old. Lock rehabilitation, another
term for extensive maintenance and upgrades, can expand a lock’s lifespan from 50 to 75 years, the study said . Navigation outages have increased more than threefold since 2000, from about 25,000 hours
to 80,000 hours on the Ohio River due to the wear and tear of age. Two locks failed recently: The
Markland Lock was closed in 2009 for five months and the Greenup Lock in 2010 for...
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This document was uploaded on 02/06/2014.
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