Obama Call on Congress to Pass Locks and Dams Modernization Bill
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert Gibbs or Tommy Vietor, (202) 228-5511
Illinois Contact: Julian Green, (312) 886-3506
Date: May 3, 2005
OBAMA CALLS ON CONGRESS TO PASS LOCKS AND DAMS MODERNIZATION BILL
PEORIA - U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today called on Congress to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2005 (WRDA), which would modernize Illinois' lock and dam system. The bill would authorize $1.8 billion for new locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and $1.6 billion in federal funds for environmental ecosystem restoration projects along the same rivers.
"The new locks, one of which will be built right here in Peoria, will allow barges to pass through in minutes," said Obama. "That means more crops going through faster, and more exports for farmers across Illinois who deserve to see their hard work pay off. It also means the creation of 6,000 new jobs over the next fifteen years, so we can put more people to work right here in Illinois. And to make sure we protect our environment, the funding for ecosystem restoration will keep the land around these mighty rivers clean and beautiful."
The bill authorizes $1.8 billion for new 1,200-foot locks along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Five new locks would be built along the Mississippi River with two each in Adams and Calhoun County and one in Pike County. Two new locks would be constructed along the Illinois River in Peoria and Brown County.
Obama noted that Illinois farmers export more than 50 percent of their corn and soybeans, most of which travel down the two rivers.
"Our nation's agriculture competitiveness depends on the strength of our transportation infrastructure," said Obama. "Nations like Brazil know this, which is why they have invested heavily in transportation infrastructure for years to speed farm exports to key markets. When Illinois farmers target these same markets, it's clear that 1930s locks and dams cannot meet 21st century market demands."
The bill also provides an unprecedented $1.6 billion in federal funds for environmental ecosystem restoration projects along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and it would allow the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to move forward on Thornton Reservoir construction. This construction would protect 556,000 people from potential flooding in 15 communities, prevent $31 million in flood damages each year, and reduce flood insurance premiums for local homeowners.
Illinois' locks and dams were built many years ago to help barges travel the rivers. Barges enter the lock chambers where water levels are either raised or lowered depending on the direction the boat is traveling.
The rivers' more modern locks are roughly the same length as today's barges, 1,200 feet long. The barges take only minutes to pass through the lock system. Unfortunately, the older locks and dams are just half that length. For barges to travel through these sections of the rivers, crews must separate the barges into pieces, often taking two hours to complete.
Obama also expressed his view that meaningful Corps reform is an important complement to the critical locks and dam and mitigation funding, and pledged to work with the chairman and other interested senators to seek consensus on Corps reform language that could be included in the bill before it leaves the Senate.
"I'm proud to announce that we're one big step closer to building Illinois a lock and dam system for the 21st century," said Obama. "Just the other week, the Environment and Public Works committee that I serve on passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2005. This bill, if passed by the rest of Congress, will provide $1.8 billion for new locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and $1.6 billion for environmental ecosystem restoration projects along the same rivers.
"The bill hasn't passed yet, but it's supposed to come up for a vote in the next few weeks. So if you believe, like I do, that we need this project to help families and farmers in Illinois, let Congress know so that we can finally get this done."
Senator Obama is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.