Great Lakes water temperatures are substantially lower than normal for this time of year. The low water temperatures are helping to keep evaporation rates down and water levels up this fall in the busiest part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping season.
The average temperature of Lake Superior is currently 3.5 degrees below normal for this time of year. Lake Michigan is 2.5 degrees cooler than average as of today. Lake Huron is 1.5 degrees cooler than normal and Lake Erie is 2.0 degrees cooler than the average temperature for this time of year.
While the differential from normal termpuratures may seem small to those who think mostly in terms of air tempuratures which fluctuate more freely, the cooler water tempuratures of this year are substantially cooler than those of the last several years.
The cooler temperatures also mean that the Great Lakes may establish its ice cover earlier, and more completely than usual.
Last winter Great Lakes ice coverage set modern records complicating some shipping, especially for U.S. and Canadian domestic carriers who operate well into January.
The Port of Cleveland’s Board of Directors voted today to provide up to $161 million to support the combined refinancings of four previous economic development projects, as well as approved the acceptance of a Homeland Security grant.
At its monthly board meeting, the Port approved:
- Issuing up to $5 million in lease revenue bonds in support of the Euclid facilities of Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Operations Group, which is refinancing the outstanding balance of Port bonds issued in 2004.
- Issuing up to $16 million in tax-exempt senior housing bonds for Vista Prairie at Emerald Village,LLC, to refinance the outstanding balance of Port bonds issued in 2006.
- Issuing up to $110 million in tax-exempt development revenue bonds for Euclid Avenue Development Corporation to refinance the outstanding balance of Cuyahoga County and Port bonds issued in 2005, 2008 and 2009 in support of Cleveland State University’s student housing.
- Issuing up to $30 million in tax-exempt Cultural Facility Revenue and Refunding bonds for Playhouse Square Foundation to refinance outstanding balances of Port bonds issued in 2004 and other development related obligations.
- Accepting a $99,000 grant award from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for security improvements.
The Port of CLeveland is the only local government agency whose sole mission is to spur job creation and economic vitality in Cuyahoga County, Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Port of Cleveland, said a component of the Port’s mission is to finance development through the sale of project revenue bonds to private investors.
“Today’s actions demonstrate the diversity of the Port’s financing programs through its continued support to a variety of different, but critical organizations to the region,” Friedman said. “The Port is proud to help lower the cost of capital for a large manufacturing employer in Euclid, a senior housing development in North Olmsted, a public university in the heart of downtown and one of the nation’s premier arts districts.”
Nearly half of the grain tonnage moved on barges plying the Mississippi River moves in the fourth quarter of the year. However, this year may be different due to record high barge rates which may force some grain traffic to find alternate route to international markets.
Arthur Neal, the Deputy Administrator for Transportation and Marketing at USDA, told a Senate committee at a hearing on Sept. 10 that since October 2013, the USDA has reported delays, missed shipments, backlogs, and higher costs for railroad services.
Barge freight rates on the Mississippi River system, the world's busiest inland waterway, have more than doubled to record levels in the last year as this year's grain crop struggles to compete with oil, coal and chemicals for limited space in the nation's freight transportation system.
The current transportation price spike is particularly painful this harvest season and grain traffic is feeling the squeeze during what should be the height of the grain moving season. High barge costs mean more grain logisticians will be looking to move grain through U.S. Great Lakes ports, or by rail. If those options prove too problematic, large quantities of grain will put into storage or on the ground.
Compounding the financial pinch for some Midwestern farmers are the lowest prices since 2010. Grain buyers have been seeking big price discounts to cover the higher shipping costs. Sales of U.S. corn for export delivery are down 4.2 percent from a year earlier and commitments by importers are growing at the slowest pace since 2009, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The cost of moving a ton of grain from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River System has nearly doubled in the last year. The USDA is expected to increase its 2014 agricultural production forecast later this week. Corn output, forecast at 14.54 billion bushels, is 4.4 percent greater than last year, setting a new record. That means inventories prior to the 2015 harvest will be up 74 percent compared to this year. Soybean output is expected to climb 19 percent to 3.99 billion bushels, leaving inventories next year at 488 million, the highest level in eight years.
Delays and other problems in the North American railroad transportation system have compounded delays for grain handlers this year.