by Ken Root & Whitney Flach
Life on the Mississippi is different than it was in the days of Mark Twain and steam boats that plied its waters north and south to bring crops downstream and manufactured goods up to cities along the waterway.
In the 1930’s, the river was tamed, to an extent, and dams built from St Louis to St Paul, Minnesota. Twenty-six in all. They allow barges to be filled with massive quantities of grain, fertilizer, coal, oil or other cargo and move up and down stream through a series of locks at each dam site and pool.
The Iowa Corn Growers called attention to the need for improvement and expansion of river shipping infrastructure recently as they hosted reporters and live radio programs focusing on the value of river transportation.
Russ Leuk is group manager of Consolidated Grain and Barge facilities near Clayton, Iowa. It sits below a tall limestone cliff and serves as a loading area for barge traffic on the upper Mississippi River. Leuk shared, “A single barge will hold approximately 55,000 bushel, which is around 60-65 trucks. That would be about 15 rail cars. Most of them will go 9 or 10 feet, sometimes 12 feet deep in the water.”
Leuk concluded by saying, “The challenge I see is that we need to maintain the channel depth so we can get maximum quantity on the barges, to maintain locks so that are operable when we need them. We then need to extend the locks to 1200 feet.”