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Introduction

This is the second report of a three-report series of a National Research Council (NRC) review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) Feasibility Study. This ongoing Corps study has its origins in the late 1980s, when the Corps began to consider the feasibility of extending several locks on the lower portion of the Upper Mississippi River (see Figure 1-1). The lock and dam system was constructed in the 1930s, pursuant to the 1930 Rivers and Harbors Act that authorized the Corps to construct a 9-foot navigation channel. The original locks were 600 feet in length. Over the ensuing decades, towboats on the UMR-IWW became larger and pushed more barges. Many tows on the river today are roughly 1000 feet long, which requires barges to be decoupled in order to pass through the locks, then be subsequently recoupled as they continue transiting the system. These “double lockages” require additional time for tows to pass through UMR-IWW locks, and congestion at several locks on the lower portion of the Upper Mississippi River has prompted claims that double lockages are a key contributor to chronic delays. The Corps thus began studies regarding the benefits and costs of extending several of these locks to 1200 feet.

The Corps began its studies in the late 1980s with separate investigations on the Upper Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers. These investigations were combined into a single system study in 1993. The spatial and analytical scope of the study presented some unprecedented planning challenges to the Corps and impeded progress and prompt completion of the study.



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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report 1 Introduction This is the second report of a three-report series of a National Research Council (NRC) review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) Feasibility Study. This ongoing Corps study has its origins in the late 1980s, when the Corps began to consider the feasibility of extending several locks on the lower portion of the Upper Mississippi River (see Figure 1-1). The lock and dam system was constructed in the 1930s, pursuant to the 1930 Rivers and Harbors Act that authorized the Corps to construct a 9-foot navigation channel. The original locks were 600 feet in length. Over the ensuing decades, towboats on the UMR-IWW became larger and pushed more barges. Many tows on the river today are roughly 1000 feet long, which requires barges to be decoupled in order to pass through the locks, then be subsequently recoupled as they continue transiting the system. These “double lockages” require additional time for tows to pass through UMR-IWW locks, and congestion at several locks on the lower portion of the Upper Mississippi River has prompted claims that double lockages are a key contributor to chronic delays. The Corps thus began studies regarding the benefits and costs of extending several of these locks to 1200 feet. The Corps began its studies in the late 1980s with separate investigations on the Upper Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers. These investigations were combined into a single system study in 1993. The spatial and analytical scope of the study presented some unprecedented planning challenges to the Corps and impeded progress and prompt completion of the study.

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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report FIGURE 1-1 Locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System. SOURCE: USGS, 1999.

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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report NRC REVIEW OF THE FEASIBILITY STUDY In February 2000, the Department of Defense requested the National Research Council (NRC)1 to convene a committee to review and to provide advice on the draft feasibility study. That committee completed its study and issued its report in early 2001 (NRC, 2001). In response to the NRC committee report, the Corps “restructured” its feasibility study and presented an updated version of the study in a July 2002 interim report (USACE, 2002). In March 2003, the Corps again asked the NRC to review its draft study. In contrast to the single report from previous “Phase I” NRC committee, this second (“Phase II”) committee was requested to provide three reports: an initial report, a second more comprehensive report, and a final report. The initial report has been published (NRC, 2004a). This document is the committee’s second report. A third and final report from this committee is scheduled for publication in 2005. The statement of task for this committee’s first two reports is the same (see below). The reports differ in that they comment on different versions of the feasibility study (which continues to evolve but is currently scheduled for completion in late 2004). The reports also differ in that the first report was to be a brief account of the committee’s initial impressions of the feasibility study, with the second report representing a more comprehensive effort. This committee’s third report will reflect upon several key river management issues on the UMR-IWW and will have a different statement of task. The statement of task for this second report from the Phase II committee is: The committee will review the Corps’ Restructured Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System Navigation Feasibility Study. The committee will review several Corps documents that explain the analysis within the feasibility study, including the Corps’ July 2002 Interim Report for the study. A key document for the committee's review will be a summary of the feasibility study that the Corps will provide to the committee before its first meeting. Since the 2001 NRC report, the nature of the Corps’ feasibility study has broadened beyond the need for transportation improvements; the restructured feasibility study has taken a more holistic approach toward considering the relations between environment, navigation, and the floodplain. Given 1   The NRC is the research arm of the National Academies. In addition to the NRC, the National Academies includes the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences.  

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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report the emphasis on comprehensive river system planning in the restructured study, the committee will provide a comprehensive review of all aspects of the feasibility study, including economic evaluation, environmental analysis, design and engineering, and plan formulation focusing on key study assumptions. The committee will focus its review on the key study issues, assumptions, and areas of controversy. Although the committee will have discretion to determine appropriate topics for its review, it is expected that the review will include several topics that the prior committee commented upon and for which the Corps has proposed responses in the restructured study plan. These topics include the Corps’ decision to replace the ESSENCE model with its Tow Cost Model; the appropriateness of the scenario-based forecasts of barge demand by commodity and how these varied scenarios will be incorporated into the subsequent analyses; how the restructured plan should incorporate the nonstructural alternatives (pricing, scheduling, etc.) into the feasibility analysis; the potential effectiveness of the proposed environmental restoration, its costs, and how the cost should be apportioned among the involved parties (federal, state, local, and private); and broad matters related to water resources systems planning and decision analysis. This report does not give equal treatment to each issue mentioned in the statement of task but rather focuses on topics that are emphasized within the feasibility study—namely, the economics of commercial navigation (including economic models and forecasts of barge traffic) and ecosystem restoration. Phase II Committee Activities This committee’s first report offered several findings and recommendations. Some of those findings and recommendations are revisited and elaborated on in this report, while others are not discussed here. Regardless of whether a finding or recommendation from the committee’s first report is mentioned in this second report, the committee stands behind all of the findings and recommendations from its first report. Furthermore, the committee’s first report contains important background information about the UMR-IWW system and the feasibility study that, in many cases, is not repeated here.

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Review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restructured Upper Mississippi River–Illinois Waterway Feasibility Study: Second Report That first report is thus a prelude to this second report and is essential background information for readers seeking a more complete understanding of this report. This second report reviews and evaluates the Corps’ April 2004 draft feasibility study. That report from the Corps represents the most recent and comprehensive document in the feasibility study (the entire draft feasibility study and environmental impact statement can be found at http://www2.mvr.usace.army.mil/umr-iwwsnsl, accessed November 11, 2004). The 2004 draft report is more than 600 pages in length and contains 18 chapters on topics that focus on commercial navigation system improvements and ecosystem restoration measures. Additional details of the Corps feasibility study are listed later in this report, especially in Chapter 3. Following completion of its first report, this committee held three meetings before issuing this second report. In St. Louis in December 2003, the committee spoke with several analysts and agricultural and navigation (and others) interest group representatives. These analysts included representatives from Sparks Companies, Inc. of Memphis, Tennessee and from-the Volpe Transportation Center of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both of these centers were enlisted by the Corps to produce reports for use in the feasibility study, and comments on those reports are included herein. At a meeting in Irvine, California, in February 2004, the committee met with several Corps of Engineers staff to discuss details and revisions to the feasibility study. Then in Red Wing, Minnesota, in May 2004, the committee spoke again with several Corps staff members, independent analysts, and representatives from environmental groups with interests in the UMR-IWW and the feasibility study. The meetings provided essential information about the feasibility study, its various inputs, and concerns of interest groups on all sides of the issue. In addition to meeting with these various groups at these three meetings, the committee also met in closed sessions in order to discuss guest speaker presentations and continue working on this report. Following this introductory chapter, Chapter 2 describes the resources and uses of the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway system and some approaches and issues regarding multiple-purpose river management. Chapter 3 reviews details of the feasibility study and presents findings and recommendations. Like the Corps feasibility study, it includes sections on ecosystem restoration and commercial navigation. Chapter 4 is this report’s final chapter, and it discusses the Corps’ strategy for implementing the feasibility study.