UPPER MISSISSIPPI/ILLINOIS RIVER - ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

Environmental Benefits of Improving the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

Barge transportation is the most efficient, environmentally friendly, and safest means of moving bulk commodities. Here are the facts:


  • The lock and dam system directly supports recreation, the environment, and municipalities.

  • The backwaters created by the lock and dam system support over 40 percent of the migratory water fowl and fish breeding grounds and are home to more than 500 miles of wildlife refuge.
  • More than $1 billion is generated each year in recreational use – fishing, hunting, and tourism. .

  • One gallon of fuel in a towboat can carry one ton of freight 2.5 times farther than rail and nine times farther than truck.

  • Barges operate at 10 percent of the cost of trucks and 40 percent of the cost of trains, while releasing 20 times less nitrous oxide, nine times less carbon monoxide, seven times less hydrocarbons, and burning 10 times less high-priced fuel.

  • America saves $100-$300 million in air pollution abatements by moving bulk commodities by barge on the Upper Mississippi River System.

  • Lack of competition from U.S. producers is encouraging 77 million acres of virgin land to be converted to agricultural production in South America. The long term impacts are reduced farm income, an increased foreign trade imbalance and an unprecedented loss of global environmental habitat.

  • Diversions away from the river increase delays at rail crossings, congestion on highways, and wear and tear on roadways.

  • Each barge load diverted off the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Rivers is replaced by 15 rail cars or 58 semi trucks. A 15-barge tow equates to 870 semi-trucks.

  • Shifting tonnage off our rivers would add an additional 9.4 million trucks to move the 245 million tons on the river each year. That’s an additional 169,200,000 tires filling our landfills!

  • Shifting from barge to rail results in a 331% increase of fuel usage, 470% increase in emissions, and 290% increase in probable accidents.

  • Shifting from barge to truck results in a 826% increase in fuel usage, 709% increase in emissions, and 5,967% increase in probable accidents.


Lack of competition from U.S. producers is encouraging 77 million acres of virgin land to be converted to agricultural production in South America. The long term impacts are reduced farm income, an increased foreign trade imbalance, and an unprecedented loss of global environmental habitat.


Economic Benefits of Improving the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers