problem. Shippers have been reluctant to seek innovative, nonstructural ways to reduce congestion; reductions in congestion would reduce river traffic (at least at peak times), thereby reducing the benefits of lock extensions. Unfortunately, the “first-come, first-served” rule is an inefficient way to manage river traffic, as it results in higher systems costs (costs to all shippers) than if there were a system explicitly designed to reduce congestion. Better management of waterway traffic should result in improved service and lower total shipping costs—with benefits to most waterway shippers. In particular, farmers would benefit from lower shipping costs.
Large amounts of waterway traffic, and the hydrodynamic changes caused by the series of navigation pools, have effects on aquatic habitat and species. The many federal, state, and local environmental conservation laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, reflect public concern for protecting the river and its ecosystems. In addition, environmental protection provides tangible benefits from tourism, recreation, and the production of food and fiber. Estimates of the annual revenue generated by tourism and recreation in the Upper Mississippi range from $1.2 billion (Carlson et al., 1995) to $6.6 billion (cited in UMRCC, 2000). The vast river–floodplain ecosystem of the Upper Mississippi River basin also provides a range of ecosystem services, including drinking water, food (fishes and waterfowl), groundwater recharge, purification of polluted waters, and flood retention. The Upper Mississippi River ecosystem is a storehouse of biodiversity, which produces social benefits today (e.g., food and fiber), and may produce additional benefits in the future (e.g., medicines).
On the other hand, intensive use of the waterway has negative effects on river ecology and, in turn, on these various social values and goods. The construction and subsequent operation of the dams and navigation pools on the UMR–IWW has also resulted in a range of environmental effects. Given these external costs, the multiple uses of a river and waterway system must be considered explicitly when deciding how much traffic should be permitted on the waterway and whether locks should be extended in order to accommodate more traffic. The public interest would be best served by river traffic management practices that are environmentally sustainable; that is, strategies that promote both a better flow of river traffic and the maintenance of ecosystem habitat and processes.
The Corps has viewed its responsibility as providing adequate capacity to serve all waterway users; for example, deciding on the proper investments and determining the best time to make those investments. These decisions are guided by federal laws and congressional guidance (a fuller discussion of which is provided in Chapter 3 ). The Corps has given little or no attention to allocating the waterway among all those who wish to use the locks when there is congestion.
The best solution to the problem of waterway congestion would be to simultaneously optimize access to the locks and to determine when public investment to extend the locks might be warranted. Instead, access to the locks is determined on the basis of delays caused by having to wait for others to clear the lock. Long waits to transit the locks indicate either that the locks should be extended or that current demand for the locks is being managed poorly. The public interest requires that the relevant government agency have responsibility for both managing the traffic and investing in lock extensions. Approaches for traffic management include nonstructural options such as tradable permits, congestion tolls, scheduling traffic, and charging for the time taken to transit a lock. This management problem interacts with a larger, more contentious one. Midwest grain could be moved on several routes for export. In addition to going by barge