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Mississippi River basin gets D+ grade

Kai Ryssdal Nov 2, 2015
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A group called America’s Watershed Initiative — a non-profit group dedicated to the economic and environment health of the Mississippi River system — took a look at the Mississippi River basin recently. They gave it a grade, based on infrastructure and some other factors, and the report card wasn’t good: the Mississippi got a D+.

The Mississippi River basin is one of the busiest and largest waterway systems in the nation, with major industries using it to ship their products in huge quantities. 

Bad news to be sure, but a good reason to call up the folks over at Golding Barge Line. They haul mostly petroleum products up and down the Mississippi every day.

We wanted to see how they’re doing, what with the poor river report card and all, so Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal called up Austin Golding, of Golding Barge Line.

Kai Ryssdal: Talk to me for a second about delay; if you get stuck in a lock and dam system wherever up and down the river for an extra, I don’t know, six hours, what does that mean for you?

Austin Golding: If I got to a lock and I only had to wait six hours right now, I would be excited. I’m seeing sometimes as much as two-to-three days delay at some of these facilities, especially during harvest season, during the fall and late summer.  I mean Kai, 60 percent of all our grain exports in this country come through the waterways and 25 percent of our petroleum products do also. So it gets pretty busy out there and six hours would be a welcome time frame with what we’re dealing with right now.

Ryssdal: So you transport mostly bulk petroleum products right?

Golding:  Yes sir, all petroleum products.

Ryssdal: So let me ask you this, do you care what the market price of those products is? I mean oil is down, gas is down — or are you just hauling it from point to point and you get your percentage whatever it is? 

Golding: Well it does impact us in the trading side of our business. With the volatility we’ve seen this year, it’s my opinion that a lot of traders have already made their money for the year and they’re gonna wait for the next fiscal year to start. Or they’ve already lost enough, and whoever’s bankrolling them said enough’s enough. So we’ve seen the trading sector of our business really slow down, but if you’re a refiner and gas is cheaper than ever, there’s a good chance you’re selling more gas than you’ve ever had, so we’ve been pretty busy on that side.

Ryssdal: Yeah, so volume’s up right?

Golding: Absolutely.

Ryssdal: Well, Austin Golding — he runs Golding Barge Lines down in Vicksburg, Miss. Mr. Golding, good to talk to you again, sir.

Golding: Hey, thank you, Kai — all the best.

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