$3 million investment in river transport
State funding for port, F.J. Robers Co.
The Port of La Crosse and a local marine transport company have received over $3 million from the state's Harbor Assistance Program for new construction and some repairs. Most of the new facilities will support exports from the agricultural community.
Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) was joined by Secretary Craig Thompson from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and representatives from F.J. Robers Co. and J.F. Brennan at the Port of La Crosse Tuesday to recognize the grant money and the investment in transportation. "This region is a transportation hub. We need to continue to invest in transportation to help make this economy in this area move forward," Pfaff said. "When we talk about investing and growing this economy, it's recognizing what transportation and an integrated intermodal transportation system means for the people, the community and the economy of this region." Over the past decade, the Harbor Assistance Program has invested nearly $7.6 million in the Port of La Crosse.
This year, Thompson said, the port will receive $2 million for the construction of an agricultural commodity transloading facility and $200,000 to repair a failing dock wall used to export agricultural commodities.
Joe Bragger, vice president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, spoke to the importance port access has for the individual farmer in getting products out to market. "What sets us apart here in the United States is the investment in these ports, this infrastructure, the hard working guys that are running these plants, and our super efficient river system," Bragger said. "I applaud those efforts to keep that up, to keep us competitive, to keep us leaders in feeding the world." F.J. Robers Co. is receiving $1.17 million from the harbor program to construct a new dock wall for the continued operation of a bulk commodity transport facility. This facility is dedicated to the transfer of corn and soybean.
"These two facilities will have an important impact on Wisconsin's water cargo and capacity to keep industries like agriculture and others competitive here in Wisconsin," Thompson said. "I can't stress how important the inland waterways are here to getting products out, as well as our ports in the Great Lakes."
High river water did shut down port operations for about a week because there is no place for barges to tie off to when the pilings go underwater.
Loading and unloading operations had to stop and are expected to resume for farmers Wednesday.
Each year, ports across the state handle over 40 million tons of cargo, valued at over $8 million.
The Port of La Crosse exports over 1 million tons of commodities each year, including liquid cement and agricultural commodities. Grain shipping is one of the largest exports for the port, feeding people all over the world.
One barge of grain replaces 70 trucks on the highway, Pfaff said. A typical tow on the river is 15 barges long, the equivalent of over a thousand trucks taken off the road.
The port is also responsible for importing raw materials such as fertilizer for the agriculture community, pig iron and salt for the winter roads.