Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Researchers to Study Impacts of Columbia Snake River Closures

Washington State University researchers plan to use a three-month shut down of navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake rivers this winter to study the economic role the rivers' barge traffic plays in regional goods movement.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to shut down the rivers Dec. 10 to replace gates at three sets of locks, including those at the Dalles and the John Jay dams on the Columbia, and gates at the Lower Monumental dam on the Snake. The Army Corps is scheduling to have the locks replaced and the rivers reopened by March 18, 2011.

While each of the locks is typically shuttered for routine maintenance for two to three weeks a year, the three-month shutdown will be the longest.

According to industry statistics, more than 8 million tons of cargo, worth up to $2 billion, move on barges over the two waterways, including nearly 40 percent of the regional wheat exports.

Agriculture exporters have been moving up or delaying shipments to prepare for the
The Port of Portland announced recently that it plans to offer incentives to shippers currently exporting through Portland to truck goods during the river closures to Portland, instead of heading to Tacoma or Seattle.

As one part of their study, researchers plan to look at how the higher cost of truck and rail shipping may impact the prices of commodities normally shipped via the rivers. The WSU team also hopes that the research may be useful to other river shipping routes that face similar disruptions, such as the Mississippi.