Some in Congress; much of the general public outside the Mississippi River basin, and even some university ecologists and other professors aren’t convinced it is a wise idea to invest heavily in upgrading the locks and dams system of the Mississippi River.
Earlier this month, Robert Criss, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University, St. Louis, wrote a commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper in which he argued against an “infusion of federal funds for river engineering and maintenance projects” for the Mississippi River and Missouri River.
To condense and paraphrase, Criss had six points of complaints:
River structures impede flow and destroy wetlands or isolate the channel from floodplains.
Loss of shallow water and island habitat decrease fish, fowl and mussel type animal reproduction and volume.
River structures provide opportunities for invasive river species to spread such as Asian carp.
Barge traffic is not economical and requires constant taxpayer money to build and maintain locks and dams because barge companies don’t pay expense other than a fuel tax.
Barge traffic is problematic because of river structures such as locks and dams and bridges can be easily damaged by barges.
Weather instability is projected to cause high differences of water level from year to year.
Criss suggested rules to reducing the length and draft of barge tows on the upper Mississippi River, make barge companies pay more costs and “de-authorize” barge navigation of the Missouri River.