Less cargo traveled down the Missouri River on barges in 2006 than any year since 1951. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that less than 200,00 tons of cargo traveled on Missouri River barges last year, due largely to low water levels.
With a drought in the Upper Missouri basin keeping water levels down, the Corps were not able to keep water levels high enough for barges to safely navigate.
The Corps ended the 2006 shipping season 48 days early due to the low water levels, according to Bob Cox, Jefferson City River Terminal port captain, in the Kansas City Star. This meant that the season ended before farmers' fall harvest, causing them to look for other means of transportation.
National Corn Growers President Ken McCauley thinks the Corps' attempts to manipulate water levels actually wasted water. "With better management, more water would have been available when needed for navigation," he says.
McCauley and NCGA have lobbied for improvements to the water transportation infrastructure.
"Inadequate channel maintenance, inferior dredging contracts and ill-advised targets created yet another year of navigation unreliability," NCGA told the Corps in November.