Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/707823
41 Summer 2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings The Mississippi River System is a marvel of engi- neering. There are more than 120 locks on the western rivers, most of which are along the upper Mississippi River system. In the late 1940s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) noticed that the Mississippi River was diverting west toward the Atchafalaya River. Left to its own devices, the Mississippi would eventually merge with the Atchafalaya and cut off river access to Baton Rouge and New Orleans — two of the largest commercial ports on the Gulf Coast. In 1963, the USACE completed a lock and dam struc- ture that prevented the Atchafalaya from "capturing" the Mississippi River and preserved the vital commer- cial channel from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico. Bibliography: John McPhee, "The Control of Nature," Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 1989. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard have a long history of working together to ensure our marine transportation system works safely and efficiently. The USACE operates and maintains the system's locks and dams, and conducts hydrographic surveying, dredging, and blasting to maintain control depths required for vessels to operate. The U.S. Coast Guard ensures the western rivers can be safely navigated. Supporting that effort, the Coast Guard operates a fleet of 18 inland river tenders that position and maintain more than 14,000 floating and fixed aid to navi- gation structures that mark channels in the Mississippi River system. 12 In addition, it regulates the inland domestic shipping industry through a variety of oversight functions, including vessel inspection and mariner licensing. System Overhead Of course, all of this comes with a cost. Simply maintaining Mississippi River system infrastructure and transportation capacity is expensive in itself — and these costs are about to rise. Why? To put it simply: age. The majority of dams and locks in the Mississippi River system were built in the 1930s, with a design life of 50 years. The U.S. Coast Guard's inland river tenders are an average age of 48 years old. Once completed, the project of replacing the aging Olmstead Locks and Dam will cost approximately $1 billion. Recapitalizing the river tender fleet will cost an estimated $300 million. 13 While this is a significant amount of money, spending these sums is arguably a prudent business decision, as the Water- ways Council, Inc., estimates that every dollar spent on the inland waterways yields $10 in economic benefit. 14 Investment — A National Security Imperative America's economic strength is powered by our robust intermodal transportation system, which is a strategic asset that cannot operate efficiently without a fully functional Mississippi River system. Therefore, investment in the Mis- sissippi River system is imperative. An investment to replace antiquated Mississippi River system infrastructure and the vintage fleet of tenders that maintain its channels is also urgently required to realize the Mississippi River system's full transportation capacity and position the system to accommodate increased trade. Additionally, smart policies must be in place to promote private investment in inland port facilities and encourage businesses to choose waterborne commerce. Finally, the Mississippi River system needs to be better mar- keted to the general population. Since most Americans can agree on the issues of reducing emissions and decreasing highway congestion, public advertising campaigns should The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates more than 120 navigational lock facilities, such as the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet, Illinois. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Preservation, Engineered