Ag Policy Blog

Lawmakers Push for Navigation Dredging on Missouri River

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Barges are a common site on the Mississippi River, but not so much on the Missouri River. A group of lawmakers on the southern portion of the Missouri River want the Corps of Engineers to maintain the navigation channel as more businesses try to start navigation on the river. (DTN file photo)

Republican lawmakers along the southern portion of the Missouri River this week are writing the Army Corps of Engineers seeing more dredging for navigation on the river.

Senators and congressmen from Missouri, as well as senators from Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska wrote the letter to Corps officials citing that "there is a critically dire situation related to navigation challenges along the Missouri River where serious barge traffic accidents have occurred and commercial activity has nearly come to an abrupt halt as we enter harvest season in the Midwest."

The Corps' offices in the Kansas City and Omaha districts are authorized to maintain a 9-foot deep by 300-foot wide navigation channel on the Missouri River, but the river has no locks or dams from Gavin's Point, S.D., to the mouth of the river in St. Louis. The Missouri River was flooded extensively throughout 2019 below Gavin's Point as well following a storm in March that breeched levees up and down the Missouri River.

The lawmakers wrote that "The current conditions and challenges impacting the navigation channel are largely attributed to previously constructed shallow water habitat chute projects and dike notches. Additionally, the prior three years of high water including the record duration 2019 flood event have contributed greatly to these challenges."

River levels have dropped, leaving behind sediment that needs to be scoured from the channel and causing navigation structures to work improperly, the lawmakers added.

The Kansas City District of the Corps received $20 million in emergency supplemental funding for dredging work in the channel. However, the lawmakers also pointed out the full cost of repairs between Kansas City and Omaha is estimated at $200 million "to ensure that the lower Missouri River is fully navigable."

The lawmakers added, "On behalf of the navigators, industries, farmers and small businesses that rely upon the Missouri River to conduct their businesses, we would appreciate your consideration and timely decision of this request."

Earlier this month, Iowa officials celebrated work starting on an $11 million NEW Cooperative Port near Blencoe, Iowa. The cooperative is planning to ideally send barges of soybeans down the Missouri River later this fall, and see barges return next spring with fertilizer and other products. If barges begin moving, it would become the most northern port on the southern part of the Missouri River, which stretches 760 miles from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis. The Sioux City Journal reported that the Army Corps has "assured the co-op it would maintain a 9-foot, 300-foot-wide channel."…

Associated Press in 2016 wrote an article spotlighting some barge traffic had been making a recovery with ports in Kansas City and St. Joseph becoming active. Missouri, especially, has invested millions of dollars in for capital improvements at the ports, which included $12.4 million for fiscal-year 2017, AP explained.…

Lawmakers' letter to the Corps of Engineers:…

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