Closure of Missouri River to barges will have little effect on local traffic

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A barge passes near Cape Girardeau early Saturday morning. Floods and drought over the past two years have affected traffic along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. (BOB MILLER ~ Southeast MIssourian)

The closure of the Missouri River to barge traffic isn't expected to have much effect on the Mississippi River's traffic.

Although most of the barge traffic along the Missouri River eventually ends up coming up or down the Mississippi, "tonnage on the Missouri River is not huge," said John LaRandeau, navigation program manager for the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "It's important to that region, but it's a very minor impact."

Typically, only half a million tons of goods travel down the Missouri River annually, he said. In contrast, lock 27 on the Mississippi River at Granite City, Ill., sees about 65 million tons pass through, LaRandeau said.

However, shipping on the Missouri River had been increasing before flooding forced the closure of the river between Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota and Glasgow, Mo.

From 2009 to 2010, shipping on the Missouri River increased about 20 percent, or 334,000 pounds, said Ernie Perry, freight development administrator with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

"We fully expected another 15 to 20 percent increase in volume moving on the Missouri this year," he said.

Shipping by barge has several benefits, including relieving road congestion and reducing emissions that contribute to poor air quality. The barge industry is also one of the safest industries, Perry said.

"Our highways are packed right now," Perry said. "We want get the right freight off roadways and onto the waterways," he said.

A typical barge can hold the equivalent of 70 tractor-trailer loads of goods, he said.

While a barge gets 576 ton-miles per gallon, trucks traveling the highways get about 150 ton-miles per gallon, he said.

Most barges traveling the Missouri River would be shifted to larger towboats at St. Louis and then continue down the Mississippi River, Perry said. The Missouri River contributes about 45 percent of the Mississippi River's water flow at St. Louis, he said.

Dan Overbey, executive director of the SEMO Port, said that port hasn't been affected by the closing of the Missouri River.

"Most of our traffic goes to or from the Gulf of Mexico or up the Ohio," Overbey said.

Some barges do travel north from here, up the Mississippi to the Quad Cities or even St. Paul, Minn. Many also travel up the Illinois River to Chicago.


Pertinent address:

10 Bill Bess Drive, Scott City, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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