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Harvest 2020 at Deardorff Farms in Colville.
Photo by Jayson Deardorff

Wilbur-Ellis

POLICY

Agency records show tonnage shipped on river is relatively stable

April 2021
By Trista Crossley


During Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R-Idaho) conference call to discuss his proposal for breaching the lower Snake River dams, several times he stated that the number of bushels of wheat that are barged down the Snake River System have been declining. The wheat industry disputes that claim.

According to figures compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources (Corps-IWR), an average of 2.41 million tons of wheat per year have been shipped on the Snake River from 2008-2018 (the last year data is available). In 2018, 2.42 million tons of wheat were shipped on the river system, compared to 2.23 million tons in 2015 and 2.38 million tons in 2014.

In 2018, nearly 9.99 percent of all U.S. wheat exports were barged on the Snake River, an increase from 2017 (8.38 percent) and 2016 (9.26 percent).

Of course, wheat is not the only product that takes advantage of barging, although it is the biggest product in terms of tonnage. Other commodities that use the river system include wood chips; fuel; fertilizer; iron and steel scrap; and paper and paper products. Total tonnage on the Snake River, according to Corps-IWR, increased from 3.51 million tons in 2017 to 3.89 million tons in 2018 (see chart).

In fact, Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, said she’d describe overall tonnage, including wheat, as “remarkably stable” for the past 10 years.