Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) commends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their professional efforts and around-
the-clock diligence to reopen McAlpine Lock on the Ohio River, near
Louisville, KY, three-and-one-half days ahead of schedule. The lock was
closed August 9 for what was expected to be a 14-day shutdown to repair the
"The Corps of Engineers did a spectacular job of alerting waterways
transporters, shippers, and users in advance of the closure, and then working
overtime to repair the failing mitre gate and disintegrating mechanical
components," said R. Barry Palmer
, President/CEO of Waterways Council, Inc.
The closure affected river traffic moving key "building block" commodities
such as coal, petrochemicals, aggregates, metallic ores, scrap metal, iron and
steel products, ferro-alloys, minerals, grain and fertilizer from the Gulf
Coast and the Lower Mississippi River Region, to and throughout the Ohio
Valley. Closing the lock was of great concern to users of the waterways
system because, unlike most navigation locks on the system, there is no
auxiliary lock available at McAlpine, and the river was closed to all
navigation at this location for the duration of the repairs.
WCI believes that the McAlpine lock closure should serve as a wake-up call
for all those who understand the enormous importance of the Nation's inland
waterways system. Similar critical modernization needs clearly exist in many
other locations throughout the system.
"The majority of the Nation's locks and dams are beyond their 50 year
economic design life, and funding to maintain these critical infrastructure
projects is dangerously low. The costs to heavy industry, and ultimately the
American public, of deferred maintenance at critical locations along America's
river system are rising exponentially. Currently locks on the system are
unavailable about 120,000 hours annually because of scheduled and unscheduled
delays," Palmer continued.
WCI commissioned an interim report, "Study of the Effects on the Economy
of the Upcoming Emergency Closure of the McAlpine Lock," which was released on
July 21, 2004. WCI is currently conducting and will release a follow-up
survey with stakeholders affected by the closure to determine further
Waterways carriers, shippers, port authorities and companies that use the
Nation's waterways to transport essential bulk commodities such as coal,
grain, petroleum and chemicals valued at more than $31 billion annually rely
upon a well-maintained and modern national system of ports and waterways.
A critical economic generator, the Nation's waterways transport key
building block commodities such as coal, which supplies 50 percent of the
Nation's electricity. The inland waterways is the most efficient mode of
transportation, moving 16 percent of the Nation's freight for just two percent
of the freight transportation cost, saving shippers and consumers more than $7
billion annually compared to alternate transportation modes. Also more
environmentally sound, waterways transport handles cargo equal to 40 million
trucks or 10 million rail cars each year.