May 7, 2006 - WRDA Needs your Action

I truly hope this is the last time I have to visit this subject on Samuelson Sez. The subject is WRDA, the Water Resource Development Act. I talked about it a few weeks ago, but still no action in the Senate. Let me again remind you of what the bill will do.

It will authorize construction of seven, twelve-hundred-foot locks on the upper Mississippi River system, at a cost of $l.8 billion dollars. But that is not all taxpayer dollars.  Proceeds from the barge industry- funded Inland Waterway Trust Fund would cover nearly one-half of the project cost.

Again, I remind you, more than 400 members of the House approved the bill last July; it was sent on to the Senate and it has been languishing there ever since. This, despite the fact that a couple of months ago, eighty-one Senators signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, urging them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. For some unknown reason, the Senate leadership has not done it.

Well, time is critical. We need to get this one passed by the end of May. That means once again it is time as voters to send letters to your Senators urging them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and to vote YES, so that the modernization project can begin. It will take more than two decades, once the money is appropriated, for construction to be completed.

This system is seventy- years old and in bad repair. It is outmoded and it cannot handle the larger barge tows that work on the river today. It is critical not just to agriculture but to all of us because in addition to moving farm products to the Gulf for export, it brings products back up the river system for consumers in the Midwest.

Two more arguments for passage...if the locks and dams deteriorate to the point they can no longer be used, there is no way the rail and truck industry can handle the volume of goods that need to be moved.

And it is more than a Transportation Bill, it is a Jobs Bill. Construction of seven badly needed locks would create jobs for many skilled trades throughout the Midwest for years. The Corps of Engineers estimates that over 48-million man-hours of work will be required to complete the new lock chambers. That's why labor is joining agriculture in support.

So urge your Senators, especially the Senate leadership, to move WRDA, the Water Resource Development Act to a vote as quickly as possible. Let's get this one done this month and get started on the new construction. It is vital to all of us in the U.S.A.

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