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View Diary: Drought and Low Water: The Mississippi May Be Unnavigable Within Weeks (191 comments)

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  •  Reduced loads already in place (28+ / 0-)

    This isn't happening overnight.  Reduced barge loads are already mandated for a section of the Mississippi near St. Louis.

    That said, I'm not sure the full stoppage will come to pass, although the alternative may be worse.  What's going on here is that the Missouri River watershed is pretty much out of water.  I drive over a section of the Missouri upstream from St. Louis a few times each week.  It's low.  No, not low, low, and has been for a long time now.

    Because the Missouri has been a huge point of political contention in the past, at some point, Congress intervened.  The US Corps of Engineers has regulations in place to protect the integrity of the Missouri watershed.  Congressionally mandated regulations.  The trigger conditions for those are arguably met, which requires the Corps to dial back on the amount of water being allowed to leave the Missouri system for the Mississippi.  Combined with the fact that the Missouri is carrying more of the source load for the Mississippi than on a normal year, if that happens, shipping at St. Louis may very well stop.

    I don't think that's going to happen.  Yet, anyway.

    I think at some point, either the Corps will find a way to wiggle out of the regulations, or Congress will intervene and throw the Missouri watershed under the bus to protect St. Louis shipping interests.  Because there's really very little other choice.  Missouri and Illinois are simply bigger fish than Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

    But unless this drought breaks, the problem is only going to get worse.  For those familiar with the Colorado River Water Wars, they're coming soon to the Great Plains states and the Midwest...

    "All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others." -Douglas Adams

    by Serpents Choice on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:29:51 AM PST

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    •  You know that there's already a law suit filed (9+ / 0-)

      to open up a dam in SD to put more water into the Missouri and then the Mississippi???

    •  It's potentially worse than the Colorado River (5+ / 0-)

      Water Wars.  Those are about water consumption, not navigation.  Worst case - let's pick a recent example and say the oil industry goes gonzo on shale development and needs a ton of water.  What would they do?  Simple, they'd just work to negotiate an exception to the Colorado River Compact  with California and Arizona, getting them to agree to take a smaller share in exchange for the oil companies agreeing to build and fund the operation of desalination plants to replace the water (plus providing extra jobs, maybe some extra tax revenue, fees, surplus water, whatever they need to get the states to go along with it).  Which they can totally afford, because while at a third of a penny per gallon desalination water is too expensive from the perspective of irrigating farmland, it's peanuts compared to the profits the oil company could make from using that water to produce oil (at 4 barrels of water to make one of oil (assuming no reuse, which is inaccurate) and 42 gallons of per barrel, they'd be spending about 50 cents on desalinated water for CA and AZ (plus whatever surcharge they demand) to produce a $90 barrel of oil.  Pretty no-brainer logic for them.

      That sort of logic doesn't apply here to the Mississippi and Missouri.  Because this is about transportation, you can't just build a new river for your boats to sail.  And it's also a problem in the short term with no time to prepare (such as selling off boats and building more rail capacity, or whatnot), versus the Colorado River which is a long-term strategic issue.  The only kind of "replacement" I can see, apart from making as much use of existing rail as they can, is to load up every last semi they can to put the freight traffic onto the roads.  But that doesn't help with extremely oversized / overweight cargo, and I'm sure you'll be stressing some ports past their limits.  

    •  After the 2011 Missouri River flood in NE and IA, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse, Larsstephens

      People in western IA along the river would be happy to let the upstream dams empty. Irrigated crops in SD and ND or fishing and recreation in the dam impoundments are a lower priority.

    •  and, historically, West of the Miss. River (4+ / 0-)

      upsteam water rights holders have first dibs on the water, and downstream holders get what's left.  The Eastern half of the US has completely different water rights laws, if I'm not mistaken...so what is especially interesting in this case is that two distinct philosophies and legal statutes dealing with water rights converge in our nation's largest river.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:08:16 PM PST

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