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Minnesota Ports and Waterways

Minnesota Port Development Assistance Program
The physical infrastructure of Minnesota's River and Lake Superior public commercial ports have been in need of rebuilding and updating to keep Minnesota competitive with other port states. Some of the projects are too large for the local port authorities to finance on their own.

Recognizing this need, the 1996 Minnesota Legislature began funding the Port Development Assistance Program. The Program involves a maximum State match of 80% and local minimum match of 20% for these port improvements. The Ports & Waterways Section of Mn/DOT administers the Program.

As of December 2007, the State of Minnesota has appropriated a total of $17.5 million toward this Program. The Program includes such projects as dredging in the dock area, dock wall reconstruction, building rehabilitation and bringing facilities up to safety code. The Program will aid private sector operators of these public facilities.

The Mississippi River System
The Mississippi River system stretches over 222 miles in Minnesota. The river system supports 5 port areas whose combined 2007 transported tonnage was 12.1 million tons.

Minnesota's largest river tonnage commodities are agricultural products, namely corn, soybeans and wheat. Minnesota agriculture ships over 60% of it's total agricultural exports down the Mississippi River.

River ports also handle dry cargo products such as coal, fertilizer, minerals, salt, cement, steel products, scrap and liquid products including petroleum, caustic soda, vegetable oils and molasses.

The river navigational system serving Minnesota is maintained by the federal government. The U.S. Corps of Engineers maintains a nine feet deep channel by dredging and operates all 29 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River.

River Port Annual Tonnages
Port
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
Minneapolis
795,372
1,069,238
1,024,877
1,282,993
1,683,650
St. Paul
5,126,732
5,511,445
5,462,801
5,660,509
5,479,857
Savage
3,201,406
3,214,351
3,018,613
3,427,182
4,204,697
Red Wing
851,692
920,610
787,883
830,446
1,026,891
Winona
2,099,746
2,204,375
2,008,029
1,781,079
2,263,660
Total
12,074,948
12,920,019
12,302,203
12,982,209
14,658,755
•Annual tonnages will vary due to seasonal flooding, freight rates, and foreign grain demands.


Lake Superior/Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway
Minnesota has four ports on Lake Superior whose combined transported tonnage in 2007 was 68 million net tons. Minnesota's taconite industry represents 61% (38.4 million net tons) of Minnesota's 2007 total tonnage transported on Lake Superior. Taconite is mined in north-eastern Minnesota and shipped mainly via the Great Lakes to steel mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Western coal as of 2005, is the leading commodity handled in the Duluth/Superior harbor at over 20 million net tons in 2007.

Our lake ports also handle cement, steel products, minerals, salt and packaged goods. Most of the products transported, especially western coal, are on the rise in tonnage shipped from the Duluth/Superior ports. The U.S. Corps of Engineers operates three of the locks on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system and maintains a 29-foot deep navigational channel. The Canadian government operates 13 locks on this system.

Ships that operate only on the Great Lakes are called "Lakers." Some of these Lakers range in size to over 1000 feet long, 105 feet wide and have a carrying capacity of 69,000 net tons. Any ship or laker operating on the Great Lakes can load to no more than 26' 6" draft in normal conditions. Since 1999, the lake levels have been so low that they have forced the ships to reduce their cargoes by as much as 6,000 tons per trip. The result of this forces the cost of shipping to go up.

Great Lakes Annual Tonnages
Port
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
Duluth/Superior
47,858,484
47,234,022
45,943,855
45,631,950
38,374,582
Two Harbors
13,736,351
14,447,328
13,216,000
14,031,947
13,125,028
Silver Bay
5,487,958
4,814,261
5,787,772
6,170,730
5,795,257
Taconite Harbor
914,022
939,065
769,537
980,112
805,000
Total
67,996,815
67,434,676
65,717,164
66,814,739
58,099,867
•Annual tonnages have varied due to low water, ice conditions and commodity demand.

Waterway Publications
Minnesota's River Terminals - March 2007
Minnesota's Lake Superior's Terminals - March 2006
River Transportation in Minnesota - Summer 2001
Monetary Cost of a Modal Shift - March 1997
Environmental Impacts of a Modal Shift - January 1991

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