U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Environment and Public Works Committee which just began work on a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, to include funding and legislative language that would establish a long-term strategy to expedite construction and operation of critical lock and dam projects along the Mississippi River.
"The system of locks and dams along the Upper Mississippi are in desperate need of modernization. The current system was built 70 years ago and updates are needed to fit the requirements of modern barge technology. Many of the older locks are only 600 feet in length, while most current barge tows using the waterway are twice as long. That means these goods take twice as long to get down river and into the marketplace," wrote the Senators. "As the Environment and Public Works Committee considers a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, we encourage you to work with all stakeholders to find a way to expedite the construction and operation of these critical projects."
Recently, during one of the most important periods of the year for Midwestern agriculture, traffic on the Upper Mississippi River was shut down due to the failure of a protecting wall at Locks 27 at Chain of Rocks Canal near Granite City, Illinois. According to the Senators, shut downs like this could impact the not just current shipments on the river, but the overall reliability and timeliness of using the inland waterways system, which is of significant national interest.