Trade association says economic consequences of drought could rival 2011 floods.
Tom Allegretti, president and CEO of American Waterways Operators, a 350-member trade association representing the nation’s tugboat, towboat and barge industry, has released a statement saying that the low-water levels resulting from severe drought conditions in the Midwest are a stark contrast to the historic flooding of 2011 but share the same potential for significant economic consequences.
“The implications of the drought conditions and low-water levels are a one-two punch for the economy, impacting both the agricultural community and one of the major modes of transporting agricultural and other essential products,” Allegretti says. “The nation’s waterways truly move the building blocks of what we as consumers use every day.”
Allegretti also says AWO staff and members have been working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers through the River Industry Executive Task Force (RIETF) to assess the impact of the low water and find ways to keep commerce moving safely. Allegretti adds that every one-inch loss of water decreases the carrying capacity of a single barge by 17 tons of cargo. Losing one foot of draft will result in a loss of 204 tons of cargo capacity per barge.
“When you consider that a typical tow on the Upper Mississippi or Ohio Rivers has 15 barges, a one-foot loss of draft will decrease the capacity of that tow by 3,000 tons,” Allegretti says. “The tows on the lower Mississippi River are larger, consisting of 30-45 barges, resulting in decreased capacity of over 9,000 tons. This would be the equivalent of adding 130 tractor-trailer trucks to the highways or 570 rail cars on the rail system for just one large tow.
“AWO members understand that this is a severe, ongoing situation. We are committed to working with our customers and with government officials to help ensure the safe movement of the nation’s critical cargo as conditions allow,” Allegretti says.