An independent committee of the National Research Board tasked with reviewing a re-structured navigation and environmental study of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers today issued a mixed initial review of the study, suggesting that the 12-year, $67 million study be extended again beyond the current six-year extension, while at the same time urging action to move forward: "at some point, scientists and managers must decide that existing data are sufficient to allow for management actions to be implemented" (page 21).
One of the committee's criticisms concerned grain export projections, citing them to be too high. "Everyone understands that grain export projections are a moving target," said S. Richard Tolman, Chairman of MARC 2000
and CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. "But if we plan to capture a growing market share, we have to stop relying on 70-year-old lock and dam infrastructure and start a long-term program to support export demand well into the future. Our trade policy supports this premise, now let's get our domestic policy synchronized," he continued.
"While we are pleased to have such a distinguished group reviewing the critical work related to the Upper Mississippi River
, we are frankly mystified that preliminary conclusions were reached by the Committee before reviewing all of the data and talking to the real experts," said Chris Brescia, President of MARC 2000. "Although the Committee repeatedly claims to be independent of the previous panel's review of some of the same subjects, the initial conclusions have been reached very rapidly and are remarkably similar," commented Mr. Brescia.
Suggestions that the existing traffic needs to be managed more efficiently have been studied. What efficiencies can be implemented are already part of the market-driven system. Independent analysis has confirmed little benefit to be derived from any of these "non-structural" measures, yet the vast majority of the NRC Committee, which has not even yet seen or experienced this system, feels compelled at this time to stake it's reputation on proposals that are unworkable on the inland waterway system.
MARC 2000, a coalition of industry, agriculture and organized labor have been working with the Corps of Engineers, along with five other Federal agencies, representatives from the five states in the region, and other economic and environmental stakeholder groups over the last 18 months. "We've recognized the limitation of models and have moved beyond that hurdle because without a timely completion of this study, neither the infrastructure nor the environment will get the attention from Congress that it deserves," commented Mr. Brescia. The collaborative team working on this study believes there is already sufficient data and statistics to support implementation of the study recommendations. A delay would only be counter- productive and wasteful. Congress has repeatedly called for the completion of the study, now scheduled for November 2004.
MARC 2000 is St. Louis, MO based Midwest coalition of industry, agriculture and organized labor working to secure the infrastructure modernization of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in an environmentally responsible fashion.