US Senators Call for Long-Term Strategy to Upgrade Locks, Dams on the Mississippi River.

Senators from Illinois, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa call for federal government to accelerate construction and operation of locks and dams on the Mississippi River.

October 2, 2012
Waterways Today
Legislation & Regulations

Six U.S. senators from states with direct contact to the upper portion of the Mississippi River have sent a letter to the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee calling for the federal government to invest in the infrastructure needed to improve the flow of traffic on the upper portion of the river.

The senators, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Dick Durban (D-Ill), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have submitted a letter to the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that calls for a long-term strategy to expedite construction and operation of critical lock and dam projects along the Mississippi River.

In a press statement, Sen. McCaskill says, "Too much of the river infrastructure along the Mississippi is outdated and not equipped to handle the traffic required to safely and cheaply transport goods. Access to reliable and affordable transportation is absolutely critical if our businesses are going to succeed and grow."

The letter notes that “during one of the most important periods of the year for Midwestern agriculture, traffic on the Upper Mississippi River was shut down due to the failure of a protecting wall at Locks 27 at Chain of Rocks Canal near Granite City, Ill. Shut-downs like this could impact not just current shipments on the river, but the overall reliability and timeliness of using the inland waterways system, which is of significant national interest.

"The system of locks and dams along the Upper Mississippi are in desperate need of modernization. The current system was built 70 years ago and updates are needed to fit the requirements of modern barge technology. Many of the older locks are only 600 feet in length, while most current barge tows using the waterway are twice as long. That means these goods take twice as long to get down river and into the marketplace," wrote the senators.

“America's inland waterways system is vital to our economy and serves as a major component of the nation's intermodal transportation network. Unfortunately, a troubling lack of upkeep within this system has crippled our ability to move goods in a safe and efficient manner. Of particular concern is our deteriorating lock and dam infrastructure along the Mississippi River, which cannot meet the demands of a 21st century economy,” the letter continues.

The Mississippi River is the backbone of our waterway transportation system and transports $12 billion worth of products each year, including over 1 billion bushels of grain to ports around the world. This efficient river transportation is of utmost importance to the nation. Shipping via barge keeps exports competitive and reduces transportation costs. That is good for producers and consumers,” the letter noted.

In supporting their call, the letter notes that more than two years ago, the Inland Waterways User Board, in coordination with the Army Corp of Engineers, studied the long term funding issues in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and submitted a unanimously-approved proposal to the Corps, which provided options for fully-funding the needs of the waterway system and prioritizing projects so that they are completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner. While the proposal presents many good specific ideas and approaches - the main point is to establish long term strategies to ensure projects that are started, are completed in a timely and efficient manner.

“As the Environment and Public Works Committee considers a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, we encourage you to work with all stakeholders to find a way to expedite the construction and operation of these critical projects,” the senators wrote.