Shelby Carlson

Jun 20, 2017  |  Today's News |  Locks and Dams |  Legislation & Regulation

The need for an improved infrastructure is an issue that has received serious attention in recent months. When President Donald Trump spoke on June, 7th in Cincinnati, Ohio on the subject on infrastructure, he highlighted the need for improvement on lock and dam technology on inland waterways. Rick Calhoun’s, President of Cargill’s Marine Operations in the U.S., op-ed criticizes current tax structures that essentially result in farmer’s paying double the taxes to support the locks and dams.


Calhoun notes, “farmers would get taxed coming and going as fertilizer moving north will transit the same locks as southbound grain. When the U.S. fights in the worldwide arena for market share, do we want to further handicap our farmers?” Certainly, the issues brought forward by Calhoun should not be ignored. The current form of funding must be updated for a variety of reasons. At the current funding levels, projects currently planned would take 77 years to complete.


For every dollar that is invested in inland waterways, $10 goes back into the nation’s economy ( IL Corn Fact Sheet ). In the state of Illinois alone, the total revenue impact of waterways is $6.4 billion a year. These numbers will not be able to be sustained unless the infrastructure is updated. Currently, 90% of the locks and dams in Illinois are operating past their maximin suggested lifespan.


Locks are not currently operating at the capacity that they were in the past. As they have aged, the average tonnage carried on Illinois locks have decreased by 20%. This decrease can’t be afforded by the state. Locks and dams result in a total of 48,195 jobs in the state of Illinois alone.


Investing in inland water infrastructure would benefit farmers who transport crops and receive goods moved on the rivers as well as the economy across the state and nationally. A return ten times the investment can be expected to the economy. Inland waterways have been an important part of the U.S.’s ability to grow and maintaining the infrastructure is vital in ensuring the continued growth.