As long time proponents of the need to upgrade our river infrastructure on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) celebrates today the passage of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (H.R. 3080) in the House.
The newly passed resolution includes verbiage to restructure the cost sharing provision as it relates to Olmsted Lock and Dam. Under the newly passed WRRDA, the federal government would sustain 75 percent of the costs to finish Olmsted, with only 25 percent coming from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
This is a change from the previous 50/50 cost sharing formula.
“The Olmsted Lock and Dam modernization project is significantly over budget. To continue pulling 50 percent of the funds from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund is to punish lock and dam users for poor time and money management on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers and its team. A move to alter the funding percentages is a positive one for Illinois farmers and the barge industry,” said Paul Taylor, ICGA President.
A change in the funding formula also makes funds available to begin modernization projects on LaGrange Lock and Dam and Lock 25 in Windham, MO.
“Under WRRDA, we see finished lock and dam upgrades at Lock 25 in 2029 and at LaGrange in 2031. This is a cost savings of 35 years and 39 years, respectively,” said Taylor. “Although we applaud the House for this action, we also see Olmsted fully funded by the federal government in the Senate passed WRDA which shortens the time for new locks and dams even further. We are anxious to address that important difference in conference committee.”
WRRDA does include other important provisions for locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, including:
- Limiting the Corps of Engineers feasibility studies to three years and $3 million – currently these studies have no time limit or budgetary cap.
- Requiring District, Division, and Headquarters personnel to concurrently conduct reviews of a feasibility study, eliminating the current practice of sequential reviews.
- Streamlines environmental reviews by naming a lead and requiring concurrent reviews.
- Consolidates studies and eliminates duplicative analyses.
- Expedites the evaluation and processing of permits, giving the Corps of Engineers permanent authority to accept funds from non-federal public interests and public utility companies.