An extended closure of the Columbia Snake River System (CSRS) is scheduled from January 14 to March 29, 2024, to replace major components at the John Day and McNary dams (see above) on the Columbia River, and at the Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite dams on the Snake River.
Similar extended closures occurred in 2010 and 2016. This maintenance to be performed represents a forward-thinking investment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assure this critical waterway remains operational for decades to come. The additional improvements will help the U.S. wheat export supply system remain the most reliable in the world.
A Partner in USW
U.S. Wheat Associate (USW) recognizes that the river system upgrade raises questions for customers sourcing U.S. wheat off Pacific Northwest (PNW) ports. Experience during the last two closures shows the PNW supply system will use every logistical option to keep wheat flowing to export elevators. USW stands ready to partner with buyers to help manage any impact related to the extended closure.
The Supply Chain Is Ready
About 75% of annual PNW soft white (SW) and club wheat exports are barged on the CSRS and Willamette Rivers. Knowing the CSRS will be closed during the upgrade, exporters, grain originators, barge operators, railroads, and trucking lines are prepared to minimize interruptions and costs. Some options included:
- Pre-positioning the maximum number of barges to load wheat before the extended closing.
- Moving more rail cars and locomotives into the region to manage increased demand from rail-loading interior elevators.
- Pre-positioning more SW and club in Columbia River District export elevators before the closure.
- Loading SW in barges from elevators below the John Day dam during the closure.
- Coordinating truck delivery from the Willamette Valley, south of Portland.
Consult with USW and PNW exporters to help smooth any logistical challenges.
Preparation Will Also Benefit Buyers
USW believes there will be sufficient volume of all U.S. wheat classes normally available from the PNW. Buyers can also help lower the risk of interruption and minimize potential costs by taking a longer view of their supply chain needs. USW advises its customers to consider:
- Consulting with PNW exporters to help give exporters more time to respond to your needs and to manage logistical challenges.
- Scheduling a meeting soon with a local USW representative to identify buying strategies that fit those specific needs and capabilities.
- Analyzing inventory needs and logistical capabilities.
- Increasing SW wheat and/or flour storage capacity.
- Increasing SW purchase cadence before the closure.
As an objective voice for U.S. wheat producers, USW values the trust customers have in our products and service. Our focus remains fixed on helping buyers, millers, and food processors learn how to grow their enterprises using our wheat. Working together, we believe we can help ease any concerns related to the 2024 extended closure and strengthen our partnership. USW looks forward to assisting you now, as always.