25 October 2015 - It’s Time to Fix the Mississippi

As I look at the headline for this week’s Samuelson Sez, I am going to amend it to read “It’s way past time to fix the Mississippi.” I am talking about the Mississippi River Waterway System that moves millions of tons of agricultural production from the upper Midwest, the Ohio River and Missouri River Watersheds to the Port of New Orleans and then to consumers around the world. How long have we been talking about the locks and dams on the waterway that are now approaching a century of use and badly in need of repair or replacement? I think I have been talking about it on my radio-TV programs at least 35 years.

Over that period of time, Congress has passed legislation more than once to repair or replace the locks and dams showing the most deterioration. But that legislation has never been followed by the necessary financial appropriation, so nothing happens. We know that lock and dam repairs or replacement will take 10 to 15 years; it is not a one-year job. I get more concerned every year about what would happen to our agricultural exports if one of the locks and dams on the Mississippi River or the Illinois River were to totally fail, stopping the barge shipment of so much of our agricultural production from the Upper Midwest to the Gulf and to the world. It would be a catastrophe!

We spend millions of taxpayer dollars in Washington D.C. every year in government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to write rules for the “Waters of the US - WOTA”, rules that make little or no sense. Now we are probably going to spend millions more in the courts to keep that from happening and giving the Federal government control over millions of acres of privately owned land. Money would be far better spent on repairing this important transportation system.

There is one more point to make on the need for work to modernize the Mississippi River transportation system before it breaks down completely. It has been estimated that if there was no barge traffic on the river system, it would take thousands of trucks on our highways (also in need of repair) to replace those barges to move our grain to world markets. Think of that traffic jam.

Exports mean jobs in America. It’s time that members of Congress realize that and act quickly to appropriate the funds to modernize our waterway transportation system. It is time for all of us to keep reminding our Senators and Representatives that this is critically important to our national economy and job growth. As I’ve said many times...it is time to stop talking and start doing!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.