Lindsay Mitchell

May 23, 2014  |  Today's News

The Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) celebrates the passage of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) through both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.  This is another small step in a very long journey to update the locks and dams on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers.

The House voted on the WRRDA conference report on May 20, passing with a vote of 412 to 4.  The Senate finished their vote yesterday, passing the bill with a vote of 91 to 7.

“Passing the WRRDA bill is a small victory, and its provision to change the funding of Olmsted Lock and Dam construction to 85 percent federal will free up Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) monies to start construction on other locks and dams.  However, this is only an authorization bill.  Real change is not affected until appropriations for this spending come from Congress and until we increase the barge fuel user fee to grow available funds in the IWTF,” said Gary Hudson, ICGA President.

Under the new 85 percent federal funding for Olmstead Lock and Dam construction authorization in this bill, construction on LaGrange moves from beginning in 2070 to beginning no later than 2030.  Similarly, construction on Lock 25 moves from beginning in 2064 to beginning no later than 2030.

New locks and dams are still several generations away.  And the locks and dams we have now are deteriorating and spontaneously falling into the rivers.

If Congress would authorize an increase in the barge fuel user fee of only 6-9 cents, the available funding would allow significant gains in construction dates for those same locks.  For LaGrange and Lock 25, lock construction could begin as early as 2020.

“We are eager to see Congress get behind some really significant change so that farmers and other manufacturers can continue exporting American goods and participating in a global marketplace,” said Hudson.

To really understand the impact Olmsted Lock and Dam construction has on the rest of the system in the absence of WRRDA passage, check out these facts:

  • Approximately $1.5 billion has been appropriated for the Olmsted project to date, including the $150 million just announced in the Corps FY2012 work plan for Olmsted.
  • At this rate of appropriations, the Olmsted project will not be completed until at least the year 2022 and, perhaps, not until well after that.
  • In the meantime, virtually no other navigation modernization project on the inland waterway system will be able to significantly move forward that have had hundreds of millions of dollars spent on them so far and are currently partially built.
  • And no significant construction project to modernize the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, Arkansas, McClellan-Kerr, Columbia/Snake, or Gulf Intracoastal waterways will be able to move forward for at least 10 years.

Learn more about the problems with Olmsted Lock and Dam construction, and how a change in its funding positively effects the other locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River Basin here.