Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: We have looked at the safety aspects. There have been accidents, however, the safety aspects are hard to quantify. Coupling and decoupling certainly increases the possibility of an accident. Bob Goodwin, Maritime Administration: The Coast Guard has statistics on the safety aspects of decoupling barges.
Question: Please elaborate on what the interim report will include. Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: As I indicated in the presentation, the Interim Report is a status report for completing the Feasibility Study. The Interim Report will include an update on the scenario analysis, development measures for the navigation and ecosystem improvement sides, but it will not include specific recommendations.
Question: Is the restructured study going to be monitored by the NRC in all phases? That is will the study be more concerned with the health of the river than with the speed of barge traffic? Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: I am not sure if the NRC (National Research Council) will monitor all phases of the study. The NRC provided an Interim report and whether or not they will be engaged on the final aspects of this report, I am not sure. In terms of whether or not this study will be more concerned with navigation or the environment, we are trying to find a balance and do the smart thing and not hurt one side or the other.
Question: Has there been a significant increase, or what has been the pattern in barge traffic? Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: If you refer to the graph in the PowerPoint presentation, there has been a large increase in traffic starting in the 1960’s. However in the last twenty years, the traffic has been more or less flat.
Question: What was the purpose of the spatial model? Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: The spatial model is an economic benefit-testing model that was developed specifically for this study. It was an attempt to improve the benefit calculating procedure. The model captured alternative uses of some commodities, specifically grain. Transportation costs and the pricing that the commodity would receive were measured along various modes. It presents a more complete picture of the economic system.
Question: What is going to happen to the transportation system if the river is not a feasible means of transporting goods, ag. and other? A "good" transportation system will bring business. A poor transportation system will discourage business. Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: If the river is not available to transport the goods, some other mode of transportation will be needed. This will have significant implications. The complete closure of the river wasn’t examined in the study. The consequences of closing the river would be significant.
Question: Please expand on your statement that there was a 5:1 benefit/cost ratio for navigation improvements. I thought it was much closer than that. Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: I think that this is in reference to the 5:1 benefits ratio for maintenance of the existing system, and doesn’t refer to the question that will be answered by the study. The study will answer the benefit/cost ratio of changes to the existing system.
Question: What can be done to speed up the process? i.e., building new locks/expanded locks/refined progress? Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: In terms of efficiency, a number of options were considered, including nonstructural and structural measures. (After clarification of the question) Let’s turn that over to our project Manager, Denny Lundberg.