GOAL: Serve as the nation’s most valuable river transportation corridor.
Provide for safe, efficient and dependable commercial navigation within the Mississippi River Watershed to ensure a competitive advantage for our goods in global markets.
Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers
Photo: Robert J Hurt
Photo: Erika Nortemann
Photo: Jerod Foster
Photo: Mark Godfrey
Commercial navigation is critical to the economic and social well-being of the United States and the world. Barge transport is a vital link in the transportation system that integrates rail, truck and international shipping systems to efficiently move goods and materials. It is a cost-effective method to provide the agricultural, energy and manufacturing sectors with materials and to transport products to national and global markets. The commercial navigation industry in the Mississippi River Watershed annually transports $54 billion dollars of agricultural products, representing 92% of the nation’s farm exports, including more than 60% of the U.S. grain products for global consumption. Sustaining and increasing this capacity through infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation, updates and innovations is necessary in order to maintain a competitive economy that benefits a growing population in the U.S. and around the world.
Entire Mississippi Watershed
The Mississippi River Watershed received a D- for Transportation, with all basins reporting either D or F grades. Critical components for locks and dams are in relatively poor condition across the Watershed, and a dangerous lack of funding for infrastructure maintenance means that multiple failures may be imminent. River transportation currently functions with some delays, but as these systems continue to deteriorate, significant failures could be expected which would result in severe economic, public safety and water security problems.
Upper Mississippi Basin
The Upper Mississippi Basin received a D grade for Transportation. The infrastructure condition indicator received a C-. The infrastructure maintenance indicator received an F for the entire watershed. The lock delays indicator in the Upper Mississippi received an A grade, the highest in the watershed.
Ohio & Tennessee River Basin
The Ohio River Basin received a D grade for Transportation. The infrastructure condition indicator received a D+. The infrastructure maintenance indicator received an F for the entire watershed. The lock delays indicator in the Ohio River received a B grade.
Lower Mississippi Basin
The Lower Mississippi Basin received a Failing grade for Transportation. The infrastructure condition indicator received a D-. The infrastructure maintenance indicator received an F for the entire watershed. The lock delays indicator received a D grade.
Arkansas River & Red River Basin
The Arkansas River & Red River Basin received a Failing grade for Transportation. The infrastructure condition indicator received a D+. The infrastructure maintenance indicator received an F for the entire watershed. The lock delays indicator received an F grade.
Missouri River Basin
Grading the Transportation goal in the Missouri Basin was a challenge during the Report Card process. The Missouri Basin is an outlier because there are no locks used for navigation. Two of the three indicators for the transportation goal measure the condition of the physical infrastructure for navigation and the performance of lock facilities, based on input from stakeholders and significant feedback from experts. These indicators do not apply to the Missouri Basin, and for this reason, the Report Card does not assign a grade to the transportation goal specific to this basin. However, transportation in the basin is compromised by the lack of adequate funding for maintenance, because this affects the management of the entire inland waterway network.
The volume of transportation activity in the Missouri River Basin is substantially smaller than in the other basins. Recent years have seen an increase in the volume of activity following a low point around 2009. The volume of river born transportation on the Missouri River, however, remains below levels seen in the early 1980s.
What was measured and how it was evaluated
Transportation grades were assessed by measuring system performance, condition of lock and dam infrastructure, and sustainability of operations.
- Lock Delays measures time that locks are unavailable for navigational use. Using data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to compare the amount of time locks in a basin were unavailable in 2013 with the best performing year from 2000 through 2012. These results were weighted by the percent of the total tonnage that moved through the lock in a year, reflecting the impact of delays at high-use facilities. Tonnage-weighted delays were compared to the best-performing year from 2000 through 2012. There are no locks in the Missouri River Basin; therefore we do not include a score for this indicator in the Missouri Basin.
- Infrastructure Condition reports the percentage of critical components at lock and dam facilities identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as being in “inadequate” or “failed” condition based on data reported for each facility. Critical components are defined as components where failure will cause unscheduled outages lasting a day or longer and preventing the facility from passing navigation traffic or maintaining the navigation pool. This is scored using the average of the percentages of critical components receiving grades of D or F for the locks and dams. There are no locks in the Missouri River Basin; therefore we do not include a score for this indicator in the Missouri Basin.
- The Infrastructure Maintenance indicator grades the adequacy of funding for operations and maintenance to maintain the current navigation system in working order. Data was gathered from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and from estimates by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pertaining to the annual amount of deferred maintenance related to the inland marine navigation system. The adequacy of maintenance for the navigation system is evaluated as pass or fail based on weight of evidence.
The current navigational system plays a critical role in efficiently moving goods throughout the Mississippi River Watershed and to world markets. Although the current Report Card results for lock delays (indicator 1) led to a grade of C for the watershed, these delays are caused by a small number of components in poor or failing condition (indicator 2). The lack of funding for system maintenance (indicator 3) is widely expected to increase the number of components that fail and will likely significantly increase lock delays and decrease overall system performance.
One point that was stressed by experts and at Report Card workshops throughout the watershed was the need to view and evaluate the navigational system as a unified system and not as a series of individual units. Disruption—such as a major infrastructure failure or accidents—at a handful of single points in the system would significantly affect the performance of the entire system.
The AWI Report Card was developed over two years with significant amount of information and feedback from hundreds of experts and stakeholders throughout the watershed and nation. View a comprehensive Report Card technical paper that includes data sources, calculations and analysis.