A closed Mississippi River has national implications.
Is Homeland Security making plans for the troops at Fort Campbell to become convoy security for thousands of trucks carrying corn, soybeans, and or wheat grown in Mid- America to urban processing centers?
This might become the case if the Mississippi River is unable to reopen for an extended time. If river commerce is stopped, then trucks and rail must be used to replace river barges.
To feed, clothe, bring building resources, and heating oils or fuels for almost 200 million Americans in the middle of the country will require a massive coordination effort that only the military can provide. If this becomes a new normal for weather or shifting climate conditions then troops being recycled from Iraq and Afghanistan may find themselves riding shotgun for 1,000 truck long convoys to deliver our consumer goods.
Before this nightmare may occur, there are two other major national security issues swirling about the current crisis for the commerce on the Mississippi River: (1) fracking of sub terrain strata and (2) opening of new Panama Canal.
In The Lede, a blog in the New York Times discussing the Mississippi River Commission's tour, John Schwartz subtly points out how factors beyond drought may be affecting river levels: "Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham, a member of the commission, said that on this year’s trip, gas drillers in North Dakota have expressed their need to use enormous quantities of water from the upper Mississippi for fracking [emphasis ours], but farmers farther downstream want that water for irrigation; while others want the water in the river so they can get their good to market on barges."
The fracking drilling process may involve the use of from 100,000 gals of fresh water up to as high 3 million gals of water per well drilled. Basic data for water consumption within the fracking operations is very hard to lock down. The energy industry is very reluctant to share this data for fear that it will bring down on them the anger of the entire environments movement.
However, if big coal or big energy mining operations compromise the long standing integrity of national water ways and lakes like the Mississippi River Watershed, then a national debate must be conducted quickly on what is worth more to America: fresh water or energy.
Sometime in 2014 or 2015, a second larger newer Panama Canal will be open. The need and strategy for this mega construction project is that 100 years after the first canal was built in 1914, there is now operational need for a water way that can handle very large super container ships.
Existing container ships move from the Asian ports of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia with ships that can carry about 5,000 to 7,000 containers per trip. They are unloaded on the West Coast of the United States. In each major port for these ships are now experiencing long delays and other load transfer problems. There is also the issue of long travel time for these trade goods to reach Mid American consumer markets.
These new mega ships will load 14,000 to 17,000 containers. Their physical sizes are approaching the sizes of US Aircraft carriers.
With the completion of a second and much larger Panama Canal, most of the existing Asian trade will shift to docks and ports along the Gulf of Mexico. The plan has been to off load goods and products in ports like New Orleans onto new generation of river barges. This new fleet of river barges then would transport cargo into ports like Cates Landing, Tn.; Hickman Port, Hickman, Ky.; Cairo, Ill.; and Paducah, Ky.
However, if the Mississippi River is compromised for whatever reason, be it low water levels or ports shut down, then the Asian trade comes to a stop.
These two national security issues are put a few of issues that would grip the American economy if the waters don’t flow into the rivers of Mid America.
Let’s hope someone in very high levels of the American government is as worried about this as we are out here in Mid America.