Lock and dam system tops summit's list of critical issues

Hannibal-LaGrange University hosts Tri-State Development Summit

For two decades, leaders from around the Tri-States have come to Hannibal-LaGrange University to discuss their states' challenges.

The biggest challenge addressed at this year's Tri-State Development summit was the Mississippi River's lock and dam system.

It's a problem that has troubled Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for a long time.

"This is a critical issue for this whole region and we want to see more attention given to the Mississippi River," Branstad said. "They have done something in the Ohio River and other places, but we think it's overdue and needs to be addressed."

Branstad is not alone with his concern.

"I would tell you with 20 locks and dams, that is major on the Upper Mississippi River," Commander and District Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Mark J. Deschenes said. "We all know how critical the Mississippi River is to the local economy, the national economy. It's likely that there would be a strong federal consideration of appropriations in this region."

Some believe that money should be secured to expand the lock and dam chambers.

"It would provide a second lock chamber, so I mentioned a one-way street," Deschenes said. "If our lock goes down, that's it. You're done, there's no detour. We haven't been able to find any detours and we're not going to, but if we had two chambers and one chamber goes down, we would have the ability to continue to pass traffic."

Any changes to the lock and dam system can only be made if, there's a cost-share system in place.

"We partner with largely a non-federal sponsor and state sponsor and there's a cost share," Deschenes said. "Well, the cost share component of doing major rehabilitations or major improvements on the system, it comes from basically the fuel tax, from the barge industry and it goes into an account know as the Inland Waterways Trust Fund."

Now, it's just a matter of waiting to secure funds to make improvement to the system.

Another plan to raise money for the lock and dam system would be to add a 45 percent fuel tax to the barge industry.