Friday, August 03, 2007

River traffic 

I am listening to last night's Hugh Hewitt podcast (note to Duane: I'm still Billy Preston when he announces NARN!) and noting Rep. Michele Bachmann's discussion of river traffic and the importance of the river to economic commerce here. The Reuters report reminds us that most of the grain that would move through that area is still in the field and so it will be a few months before it moves down the Mississippi River to market. I'm looking at corn, soybean and wheat futures contract charts and while prices have risen somewhat, it doesn't appear to have had that large an impact. (Check also the Minneapolis Grain Exchange figures.) From what I can see, taconite shipping is over the Great Lakes rather than down the Mississippi.

How much traffic is that? According to this article from the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation (scroll down to the place where the discussion of draining of the St. Anthony lock begins), 1.5 million tons of commodities are shipped through there (as of 2005) "including grain, gravel, coal, steel, cement and rock salt."

Plans by the city of Minneapolis to convert part of its port for parkland, housing and other uses, Lambert said, will have an effect on river shipping and other transportation modes as well.

He said, for example, that grain that was once delivered to the Minneapolis port by rail now goes to the port at Savage on the Minnesota River for shipment downriver on the Mississippi.
This data on shipping on the waterway suggests much less now, little more than a million tons, compared to over five million from St. Paul and three more from Savage (on the Minnesota River, which enters the Mississippi below the bridge.) The impact here will be felt, but it's not as big as one might have thought from that discussion. The lack of movement on grains and metal prices is indicative of that.

For further research: More on shipping in Minnesota. A directory of river terminals.

UPDATE: William Polley notes there are only three terminals upstream of the St. Anthony locks, and they do not have any grain, so the effects should be de minimus.

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