A roundtable to discuss the importance of upgrading Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers Locks and Dams was held in Quincy Monday afternoon. The roundtable was a follow-up to an earlier meeting that was held in conjunction with and immediately following the 9th Tri-State Development Summit in October 5.
During that meeting, the group, which consists of representatives from private companies as well as agriculture, waterways and transportation associations, decided it was time to move beyond studies and analysis and into action. While modernization of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers locks and dams is a goal, maintaining what we already have is a priority according to Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Council.
Step one, Steenhoek says, is to make sure the millions of dollars that are paid into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund are appropriately used. Steenhoek says there is a lot of evidence that the government has not been a good steward of that money. Step two, he says, is to improve the condition of the locks.
Paul Rohde with Waterways Council, Inc. agrees.
"Nationally, we have an 8 billion dollar backlog in construction projects. That's new construction and rehabilitation of old locks and dams. Here on the Mississippi, most of them are 70 to 80 years of age and haven't had a lot of capital improvements done to them. So we've expected the infrastructure to operate and keep working normally without putting the funds in to keep that operation possible," said Rohde.
Rohde says Congress authorized the upgrade of seven lock and dam sites, including 5 on the Mississippi, from Locks 20 to 25, but he hasn't seen any money come in for these projects.
Griggsville, Illinois farmer Phil Bradshaw says the ultimate goal is to educate the public of the importance of the waterways transportation system in hopes citizens will then communicate with their representatives in Washington D.C.
Bradshaw notes that if a lock becomes unusable - coal shipments needed to generate electricity will not be able to move upstream and crops like soybeans and corn will not be able to move downriver. Both Bradshaw and Steenhoek say that would be catastrophic to the area economy.
*Contributed by WTAD's Jim Dewey.
A roundtable discussion at the Oakley Lindsay Center Monday is being held to discuss the importance of upgrading Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers Locks and Dams.
The Great River Economic Development Foundation is holding the meeting in follow up to an earlier meeting that was held in conjunction with the 9th Tri-State Development Summit back on October 5.
Representatives from private companies, agriculture, waterways and transportation associations decided it was time to move beyond analysis and into action.
"The inland waterways system is one of this country's greatest assets. For over 200 years, our river system has facilitated affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly transportation as the building blocks of our economy," Waterways Council, Inc. President and CEO Michael Toohey testified. "It has allowed the low cost movement of large bulk commodities in an efficient and timely manner. But despite all of these advantages, our inland waterways infrastructure is suffering and in need of immediate modernization." Toohey spoke in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee in September.
Topics for discussion at the Monday roundtable include:
- Explanation and discussion of the Waterways Council, Inc. Capital Development Plan- Priority list for locks and dams upgrades and repairs, including budget and its impact on operations and maintenance- The assessment on the current situation in Washington, the Administration's proposal and the Corps' budget
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