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14 September 2014 - Let’s Move on the Locks and Dams

How many times have we talked about this situation over the past three decades. . . .the crumbling locks and dams on a vital transportation system in the heartland of the country? The river waterway system, including the Illinois River and the Mississippi River, every year moves millions of tons of agricultural products to the port in New Orleans for shipment to buyers of U.S. agricultural products around the world.

Those barges that are emptied of their grain loads are then loaded with coal, fertilizer and consumer products to be shipped north up the river. It is a system that is crumbling and deteriorating every year. It is over 70 years old and during the last 30 years Congress has passed and the President has signed several bills authorizing the repair and the construction of new locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, but then they don’t pass legislation to fund the work authorized in the bills and so the locks and dams continue to deteroriate.

Well, the end of last month, the Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin decided to make their case to President Obama. They wrote a letter urging the President to increase investments on the Mississippi that will improve navigation, relieve congestion among other methods of transportation and insure benefits from the expansion of the Panama Canal.

In that joint letter, the Governors expressed support for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program authorized by Congress in 2007 which integrates lock capacity expansion and modernization with ecosystem restoration efforts. What that means is we need to replace the 600-foot locks with 1,200-foot locks to avoid splitting 15-barge tow configurations in two to move through the 70-year-old locks.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstead said...”The upper Mississippi River is a thoroughfare for trade in this region. Today it helps the nation compete in the global economy with 78 percent of U.S. exports of corn and soybeans flowing to the world market via the Mississippi River.”

Can you imagine how many 18-wheelers would have to be added to the already congested Interstate System, or how many trains would have to be added to a rail system that is overburdened now trying to keep up with oil, coal and grain shipments, if we couldn’t move grain on the waterway system.

It is long past time, Congress and President Obama to fund the repairs needed to bring this vital transportation system up tp 21st Century standards. Let’s get it done!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.