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USACE Implements Queue Management to Keep Harvest Moving

first_imgLast week, ASA and the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to express our concerns with their decision to close a portion of the Mississippi River at mile marker 632-635 for potentially up to 14 days for mat-laying work on the levee bank.  ASA stressed that any reduction of service on the inland waterway system during this record harvest season will impose significant hardship on U.S. agriculture with the soybean industry being particularly vulnerable given that 80 percent of U.S. soybean exports occur between September and February. We also pointed out the compounding effect given the rail service issues experienced along the northern tier that have resulted in increased demand for barge service and other alternative modes of transportation. ASA and STC urged the USACE to consider postponing this maintenance work to a later date that will have less impact on the ability of the soybean industry to meet our customer needs.Major General John Peabody, USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations responded to our concern and provided a detailed explanation of the reasons for the Corps decision, the actions they were taking to reduce the impacts on barge traffic, and their steps to review the decision and communicate with shippers and stakeholders to understand the impacts being experienced.MG Peabody indicated that the area in question is a critical area demanding repairs and upgrades, including to some damages from the 2011 flood, and any decisions to delay or defer this work would result in additional cost to the government and risk experiencing greater disruptions in the future if not addressed now.  The USACE is working with the US Coast Guard to determine the ability for some traffic to safely pass while the work is going on, and “will continue to make every effort to consider industry concerns, and minimize impacts to the extent possible.” The USACE is working most directly and communicating primarily through the River Industry Executive Task Force, which is comprised of shippers and stakeholders.Over the weekend, the USACE implemented a “queue management” system to clear the queue of waiting barges and tows every evening before resuming work in the morning. Major General Mike Wehr, Commanding General, USACE Mississippi Valley Division, conducted a site visit on Sunday and the USACE is providing daily Situation Reports to shippers and stakeholders, including ASA. The most recent Situation Report issued in the early hours Monday indicated that today’s traffic is clearing the queue sooner than the last two nights. There were 8 Tows halted above and 3 Tows halted below the work site earlier this week. The USACE is collaborating on how to best track the arrival and departure of traffic in the queue to understand the length of delays experienced. The current work site is expected to be finished by Nov. 17and will move to locations that should have less impact on navigation.ASA will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with the USACE. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Tom Hance in the ASA Washington office at 202-969-7040 or [email protected]last_img read more