Welcome, Spring! Upper Mississippi River Opens for Business


This means that more tows will head up to St. Paul with more barges — some possibly filled with fertilizer or sand and gravel, and others empty for loading out grain to head to the Gulf.

The St. Paul District maintains a 9-foot navigation channel and operates 12 locks and dams to support navigation from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa. Keeping this system open is vital to the nation’s economy. On average, agricultural producers save around $1 per bushel on corn and soybeans by using the river to ship their commodities rather than other transportation methods, noted USACE. The commercial navigation industry estimates an annual average savings of nearly $400 million by using the inland waterways instead of overland shipping methods. In addition to the economic savings, navigation reduces the stress on roads and bridges.

2020 SHIPPING SEASON A SUCCESS

The USACE, St. Paul District, released its 2020 navigation statistics for the Upper Mississippi River on Feb. 8, and said lockages for the year through the last lock and dam operated by the district were above the 10-year average.

During the 2020 season, USACE supported 2,620 commercial navigation lockages at Lock and Dam 10, near Guttenberg, Iowa, which was above the 10-year average of 2,164 lockages. The 2020 lockages supported 16,974,594 tons of commodities by the navigation industry. During the 2019 season, USACE supported 1,750 commercial lockages and the movement of 11,575,625 tons of commodities, stated the report. The 2020 navigation season unofficially came to a close on Nov. 30 after the motor vessel Colonel departed St. Paul. Navigation statistics fluctuate from year to year, depending on the weather, river flows and the length of the navigation season.

According to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, St. Paul, grain accounts for the vast majority of downbound tonnage from there. Approximately 8 million tons of Minnesota’s corn, soybeans and wheat is shipped annually by barge to New Orleans for export to destinations around the world.

Liquid asphalt for roads and roofing is shipped downriver from Twin City oil refineries. Canadian potash is transferred from rail to barge and carried to locations where it is distributed for use as fertilizer. Other downbound commodities include petroleum coke for power generation, scrap metal for reprocessing, petroleum oil, sunflower oil, molasses and fly ash.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn



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