U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood initiated America’s Marine Highway system in April of 2010. It was really an updated Short Sea Shipping program and another attempt – or a plea – to develop smaller, local ports which would get some of the long haul trucks off the road. A large number of smaller ports – as clear-thinking analysts have repeatedly stated – would also encourage the growth of local manufacturing facilities, and employment opportunities.

The Mississippi River is a designated area in America’s Marine Highway system and would profit enormously when, and if, “Short Sea Shipping” ever got off the ground. There are some pretty important states bordering the Mississippi and those states would benefit mightily when, and if, that waterway could be served by reliable and efficient vessels.

Care to guess how officials in those bordering states reacted to Secretary LaHood’s initiative? That’s right, none. They just yawned. Why? There was no money to be laundered, that’s why.

But here’s how ignorant- or rascally – the officials of those states are. They had something else in mind all along. Here’s what we saw in the Advocate (November 26, 2013):

“Groups Align to Deepen Mississippi River”

“NEW ORLEANS – Officials with the World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance and the Big River Coalition will work together on issues that include an increase in the depth of the lower Mississippi River.

“The groups want to match the depth of the Panama Canal locks that will open in 2015 to accommodate larger ships, for which ports along the Gulf and East Coast ports will be competing.

“‘We need a combined voice on this issue, which has major implications on the future of commerce, not just for Louisiana but for the entire nation,’ said Dominik Knoll, chief executive officer of the World Trade Center of New Orleans. ‘We see the Big River Coalition as a strong ally that the alliance intends to work very closely with going forward.’

“Cargo transported along the Mississippi has an estimated $ 115 billion annual impact on the nation’s economy, the organizations said in a joint statement.

“According to a recent Big River Coalition study, every dollar spent to deepen the Mississippi River by 5 feet, allowing larger vessels to reach Louisiana’s ports, will create $ 89.4 in economic benefits.

“A deeper river could drive about $ 11.5 billion through increased international cargo movements, stemming from lower transportation costs and lower costs of importing oil. It would create 16,911 jobs nationally and $ 649.5 million in income for American workers, according to the study.

“The two organizations said they signed a memorandum of understanding outlining a cooperative effort to preserve and promote economic growth on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

“Sean Duffy Sr., executive director of the Big River Coalition, said recent history shows that the navigation channels and transportation infrastructure are underfunded by Congress and are often taken for granted until emergency actions are required.

“‘The Mississippi River Basin faces immense challenges over the next decade,’ Duffy said. ‘Floods, drought or low water (rock pinnacles), inadequate funding for dredging and maintenance of critical locks and dams (navigation structures) must be addressed through proactive measures and proper investment.

“The Mississippi River Basin connects 31 states and two Canadian provinces through the third-largest river basin in the world. The new partnership aligns the two groups on efforts to deepen the Lower Mississippi River channel to 50 feet, an action that would help preserve the long-term economic vitality of the United States,’ Duffy said.

“The World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance is a coalition of World Trade Centers along the Mississippi River, and is led by Knoll, the World Trade Center New Orleans’ CEO.

“Alliance partners represent thousands of businesses, farmers and others who rely on the Mississippi River for commodities, including petroleum and coal products, agriculture, marine and wood products, chemicals, minerals and ores, paper, plastic and rubber products, and textiles and fabrics.

“The Big River Coalition was created in fiscal year 2011 in response to an announcement by the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi valley Division confirming the discontinuation of reprogramming funds to maintain the lower Mississippi River navigation channel. The Big River Coalition’s original focus was to obtain additional funding to supplement the shortfall in the Corps’ operations and maintenance budget and to establish a legislative fire wall around the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Its mission expanded as the coalition grew.” –

Here’s really what’s behind that “memorandum of understanding.” Those behind that memorandum are fully aware that America’s Marine Highway program – aka Short Sea Shipping – doesn’t provide the “entitlements” that those officials believe they deserve. After all, they really are politicians, and their reputation as politicians, whether they like it or not, has long since preceded them. Going ‘way back, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), who wrote the widely-read “Common Sense”, also penned the following acknowledged truism: “The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.”

But dredging? Aha! That’s where the money is, and dredging the Mighty Mississippi will require billions of dollars that will inevitably disappear along with the mud – and the “16,911 jobs nationally and $ 649.5 million in income for American workers.”

Although Thomas Paine warned us 300 years ago about ignorant/rascally politicians, his message still hasn’t gotten through to the average American.