Mark Beorkrem, MRBA: There is a big difference between the Ohio River and the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The Ohio River changed a lot more than the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Back in the 1940s and 1950s they actually raised the pool level on the Ohio River. They only looked at site-specific environmental impacts. They will have to do the rehabilitation work retroactively. We are ahead. They will have to deal with it retroactively, we are dealing with it proactively.
Question: How much would the big locks change the barge rates per bushel? Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: Currently, the congestion rate is about 3 cents per bushel. In the future the charge will be dependent on traffic, and whatever scenario is implemented will affect the price.
Question: What is the baseline environmental condition used to determine desired future conditions: River before impoundment or after? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: Essentially it is the river after impoundment. Rick Nelson, US FWS: We are not looking back, we are only looking forward.
Question: How do you account for environmental benefits achieved with impoundment? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: Immediately after the impoundment there were positive environmental benefits. Certain habitats were flooded that hadn’t been flooded before, and they were initially very productive in terms of fish and other life forms. However, those benefits were short-lived. We are not currently looking at any specific benefits of impoundments. Rick Nelson, US Fish and Wildlife Service: There were some benefits for some species and some detrimental impacts for other species.
Question: How are county governments involved? Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: It’s a very good question. Let me expand this question to include drainage, district, cities and other interest groups. Everybody who lives near the river has a stake in it. In the interim report we are looking at institutional arrangements for how we manage the river and how the public and private entities play into this. We are not exactly sure yet how we are going to collaborate. We started working with the NRCS already. How the public and private entities will fit into our collaborative interest process I am not sure.
Question: The lower Mississippi River has improved. The stretch from St. Louis to Cairo has improved. The stretch from Grafton north has got worse. How come? Mark Beorkrem, MRBA: The open river stretch from St. Louis south is probably the least studied part of the Upper Mississippi River. And I think it would be very hard to claim that it has improved. The Corps of Engineers has initiated work with various agencies to improve this stretch. They are working toward restoring some old side channels and installing some wing dams, but I don’t think we can really say at this point that it has improved, we just don’t know. The amount of traffic north of Grafton is comparable to the amount of traffic on the open river. Barge sizes are much larger south of St. Louis. Missouri and Illinois are trying to figure out how to do more studies in this area.
Question: If we assume barge traffic will increase because of lock improvements, can we then also assume that barge traffic has remained flat or decreased because of the lack of improvements? Lack of improvements has made it more costly to move goods! Rich Manguno, Corps of Engineers: Yes, lack of improvements has made it more costly to move goods. If you lower the congestion, you will lower the cost and increase the profits. Whether or not that will trigger higher or lower traffic rates, I don’t know.
Question: If certain aspects of our knowledge base are at different stages, how do we proceed with what we know while learning more in coming years?