Persistent Polar Conditions
With winter weather lingering, Saint Paul is anxious for spring and the 2018 river shipping season. The 2017 season started in early March, but this year has been put on hold due to the ice on Lake Pepin (the same lake Laura Ingalls and her family visit in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods). The largest lake on the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin is an essential piece to the lock and dam system that transports goods up and down the river. By late February, the ice had only melted 6” and thickened 2” the first week of March. A year ago, Lake Pepin had already been open a full month with no ice after February 15.
What happens when the season gets delayed? Is there a way for river tenants to prepare for losing a month of productivity? President Lee Nelson of Upper River Services says, “The ramifications remain to be seen. We just have to wait for everything to thaw, access the situation and then do the best we can to make up for the it.”
The Northern Advantage
On the flip side, Saint Paul Port Authority river expert Kathryn Sarnecki points out possible benefits to the delay. As she explains, “Having the waterways closed December through March gives the Port and its tenants the opportunity to schedule maintenance and repairs on things like dock walls, the locks, dams and other mechanical parts. A year-round season would make updating river equipment much more difficult. With hopes for warmer weather over the next couple weeks, and the season beginning, it’s good to know that our equipment will be able to keep up with the overhaul and productivity needed to make up for a late start.”