IRPT: Missouri River Showing Progress
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals (IRPT) has anounced  the newly formed working group “MO River Basin – Navigation Revitalization Committee”, designed to increase freight traffic and business on the Missouri River. IRPT has encouraged and received cooperation with associated marine, economic development and trade organizations to promote the healthy growth and operation of ports, terminals and intermodal centers along the Missouri River to boost foreign and domestic commerce, development and job creation throughout the river system.

The first meeting was held this past week in Kansas City.

The meeting attendees included representatives from the USACE, MO-DOT, MO-DNR, IRPT, Port and Terminal Authorities, Congressional representatives, a recreational user and navigators.

Discussion centered around River Flows and Sustainability of river freight traffic on the Missouri River.   It was noted that The Master Manual specifies that a 9 foot draft by 300 foot wide channel is to be provided and maintained by the USACE, and with full 'navigation support'  of 41,000 cfs at Kansas City. There were no problems with bottoming upstream from Kansas City. There is not however, a specified flow downstream from Kansas City, for full 'navigation support' because of variable tributary flows into the river. There are bottoming problems downstream from Kansas City, at full 'navigation support' in about 22 places particularly downstream from Waverly.  The bottoming occurs in 'crossings' (the channel changes from one bank to the other) and not in bends where water depths are greater.  Bottoming problems like these are largely eliminated in rivers where there are locks and dams that provide constant water depths. When tows are contracted for entering the Missouri River, they are set for the 9 foot draft as specified in the Master Control Manual.  It is this depth of draft that causes barges (loaded to 8.6 feet) to bottom out in shallow places.  More frequent barge tows on the river would help decrease the number of shallow areas by prop washing sediment downstream to deeper areas.  There was little or no problems with bottoming in the 1980's and 1990's, however the problem has become steadily worse after 2004.  The navigation interests in the meeting want the problem corrected.

Water releases (cubic feet per second (cfs)) for navigation as specified by the Master Control Manual have remained unchanged since the construction of numerous chutes and dike-notches for wildlife conservation.  When the chutes and notches are in bad condition, they reduce water depths in the main channel.  Nearby bottoming occurs until level control structures for the chutes and notches are repaired (up to 2 years depending on available channel maintenance funding). A discussion followed on addressing the shallow places.

To avoid revising the Master Control Manual and/or involving the creation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the USACE would need to agree to study the condition of the portions of dikes below the water's surface and engage in a maintenance program to enhance them so to cause the river to operate as designed and alleviate issues that are occurring in the 'crossing' areas and to help enhance channel depth. These actions will not decrease the flood conveyance capacity of the channel.

Meeting discussions also included the services of the US Coast Guard (USCG).  It was noted that the USCG has their water craft off the river during the navigation season for routine maintenance. The USCG does not adjust to accommodate a navigation season for a river. Shore markers are in poor condition and when replaced they are not accurately installed with respect to river mileage.  This creates unsafe conditions for barge tows and recreation boating on the river.  The placement of buoys are poorly maintained and have been found by navigators to be totally useless.  On other rivers, the buoys are placed by the USACE. A discussion followed to address channel markings.  Further meetings between IRPT, Inc. and the USCG are planned to address the problem.  

The second meeting will be held in Jefferson City in April and host by DNR.


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