USA: Jobs and Wages at Risk in Mississippi River States
The American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, Inc. continue to warn Congress and the Administration of the economic effects that the nation’s midsection would face in the wake of further navigation restrictions or possible Mississippi River closure to barge traffic in mid-December.
States along the river would see an immediate impact on jobs and wages, and the potential toll would be harshest in Louisiana, Illinois and Missouri, with thousands of impacted jobs and tens of millions of dollars in wages at risk at a time when the nation’s economy is still recovering slowly from recession and record-high employment.
“This is further evidence that there is a regional economic crisis in the making that necessitates action from the President, and these figures only take into account the months of December and January,” said Tom Allegretti, AWO’s President & CEO. “Given the number of jobs at stake if commerce on the Mississippi is crippled, and especially given the ripple effect on local economies up and down the river, the Administration cannot afford to remain silent on this critical issue.”
“At the end of the day, what’s at stake is more than just numbers,” said Mike Toohey, WCI’s President & CEO. “There are real people and real families whose livelihoods will be in immediate jeopardy if the Mississippi River cannot support navigation.”
“If low water restrictions take effect and my customers are unable to load barges, it will devastate our company,” said Kurt Johnson, Owner and President of Southern Illinois Transfer, Inc., a small business based in Chester, IL that ships grain on the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers. “Our employees would certainly be affected. The loss of revenue from a possible closure would take the company years to fully recover from and could imperil our future existence.”
AWO and WCI continue to emphasize the sheer volume of the commerce that moves on the Mississippi River and how consumers might eventually feel the impacts of further impairment or closure, stating that $7 billion in key products such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals and other products remain at risk in December and January alone, including:
– Over 7 million tons of agricultural products worth $2.3 billion;
– Over 1.7 million tons of chemical products worth $1.8 billion;
– 1.3 million tons of petroleum products worth over $1.3 billion;
– Over 700,000 tons of crude oil worth $534 million; and,
– 3.8 million tons of coal worth $192 million.
“So much of what we use in our daily lives has its start on the river, whether we realize it or not,” Mr. Allegretti continued. “Agricultural products are critical exports, but they also fill our grocery stores. Coal that travels on the Mississippi fires our power plants and allows us to have electricity at the flip of a switch. Petroleum becomes gas for our cars, rock salt keeps our roads clear in the winter months. Cement and gravel literally help build construction projects and chemicals and other raw materials keep manufacturing facilities busy. There is really little that is left untouched by what moves on that river, and there is much at risk if immediate action is not taken.”
In a November 27 letter, AWO, WCI, and 16 national organizations including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the President and FEMA, asking for an emergency declaration to expedite action to keep the Mississippi River open to navigation. The letter called attention to the near historic low water levels that have restricted barge traffic on the nation’s critical water transportation artery since this summer, noting that crisis has intensified as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun the reduction of water to the Mississippi River from reservoirs on the upper Missouri River.
The letter warned that as the effects of reduced flows from the Missouri River are felt downstream, rock pinnacles near Thebes and Grand Tower, IL will limit draft and prevent the passage of vessels, significantly impairing the flow of commerce by mid-December. The groups have requested that the President issue an emergency declaration and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately remove the rock pinnacles and release such water from the Missouri River reservoirs as is necessary to preserve a nine-foot channel on the Mississippi River to sustain commercial navigation.
Press Release, December 3, 2012