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Cash Market Moves: Far Upper Mississippi River close for winter, but USACE begins lock maintenance

December 26, 2023   Progressive Farmer

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For those of us who call the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, "a second home," it's always a sad day to watch the last of the barges leave for the winter. It's an annual rite of passage as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), St. Paul District, closes the Mississippi River to barge traffic through Lock and Dam 10. The 2023 navigation season unofficially ended on Nov. 23 after the Motor Vessel W. Red Harris departed from St. Paul.


The season was declared officially ended when the last tow of the 2023 navigation season, the Motor Vessel Thomas Erickson, departed Lock and Dam 10, near Guttenberg, Iowa, on Dec. 3, with 15 barges. The 2023 season started March 12, when the Motor Vessel Phillip M Pfeffer broke its way through the ice of Lake Pepin to travel to St. Paul.


During the 2023 season, USACE staff supported 1,218 commercial navigation lockages at Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings, Minnesota, which was below the 10-year average of 1,433 lockages. The 2023 lockages supported around 6 million tons, or approximately 3,429 barges, of commodities shipped by the navigation industry. During the 2022 season, USACE staff supported 1,213 commercial lockages and the movement of more than 6 million tons of commodities, noted the USACE on its website.


"While we say goodbye to the 2023 navigation season, St. Paul District staff are busy this coming winter with maintenance projects at Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings, Minnesota; Lock and Dam 3 near Welch, Minnesota; Lock and Dam 4 near Alma, Wisconsin; and Lock and Dam 7 near La Crescent, Minnesota. The work is scheduled for completion in March 2024 and will help ensure the navigation channel continues to support the regional economy for the movement of bulk commodities such as corn, soybeans, cement and fertilizer," said the USACE in a press release.


The St. Paul District's navigation program provides a safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation system on the Upper Mississippi River for the movement of commercial goods and national security needs. "Keeping this system open is vital to the nation's economy. The industries using the inland navigation system saved approximately $430 million instead of overland shipping methods," notes the USACE.