WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

The Inland Waterways State By State

The National Waterways Foundation has just released a series of waterways profiles for 17 states. The NWF’s research partner, Cambridge Systematics Inc., aggregated and crunched data (up to 2018) from the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agencies, the Federal Highway Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics. The updated profiles were inspired by profiles originally produced for a waterways section of the Chamber of Commerce in 2011 that similarly aggregated publicly available data and grouped them together in one place in graphic displays. States covered include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The graphic displays are designed to be easily available tools for waterways advocates, members of Congress, state legislators and other policy makers. They provide a granular, on-the-ground single take of the impact and importance of inland waterways to each state’s economy and transportation.

We learn that Kentucky, for instance, moved 108 million tons of freight valued at $11.9 billion over its 1,590 miles of inland waterways in 2018 and through its 11 public ports, replacing what would have otherwise been trips by 2.7 million trucks over its roads. (One of the many benefits of water transportation is less road maintenance due to fewer truck trips.)

There can be revelations even for those familiar with their states. It may be no surprise that 49 percent of Louisiana’s outbound cargo shipped by water is crops, but did you know that 30 percent of its outbound water cargo is related to chemical manufacturing? Or that 54 percent of its inbound waterborne cargo is related to primary metal manufacturing?

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Waterways and ports have an outsized impact on state revenues. In 2018, Minnesota’s 260 miles of waterways moved 12 million tons of freight valued at $3.2 billion, supporting an astonishing 460,000 jobs and generating $16 billion in taxes.

The new state inland waterways profiles and data methodology used can be found at www.nationalwaterwaysfoundation.org/Research.html.

In our high-information age, easy-to-assimilate graphics like these are important tools for waterways advocates and their audiences. They may be a quick read, but they represent many hours of painstaking work. We hope they will become a resource to improve coverage of the waterways by other media outlets. Kudos to the National Waterways Foundation and Cambridge Systematics Inc. for furthering support for our vital inland waterways and inland ports.