Export is the number one market for Illinois corn. This means that Illinois corn farmers have a significant investment in making sure that our river system – the one that transports our goods to the world marketplace – is in good working order.
However the locks and dams on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers that we utilize are actually the same locks and dams built during Mark Twain’s era for paddle boats. You might imagine that we have progressed a bit since then, we haul a bit more grain on the river, and we are in desperate need of some upgrades to the river transportation system.
In the 1980’s, we had one victory when we secured appropriations for the Olmstead Locks and Dam near Metropolis, IL on the Ohio River. The project was supposed to cost $775 million and be finished in seven years. You might be surprised to know then that the project is STILL not completed – more than twenty years later – and the estimated cost for the project is now more than $3 billion.
When we travel to Washington, DC next week, this will be one of our key issues. We hope to convince the Illinois Congressional Delegation and other key Congressmen and Senators that the Army Corp of Engineers (the government agency responsible for oversight and delivery of this project) needs some sort of oversight or revamp. Because if the Olmsted project is allowed to continue at this rate, we won’t get any new locks and dams up and down the Mississippi or Illinois Rivers for at least the next 10 years.
With export as our number one market, this is a HUGE detriment for Illinois corn farmers.
Are you interested in learning more? Check out these numbers:
- Congress originally authorized the Olmsted project in WRDA 88 with an estimated total cost to be $775 million and a seven-year construction duration beginning in fiscal year 1993.
- In 1989, one year after the project’s authorization, the Corps increased the project’s construction cost estimate to $816 million and extended the construction schedule to nearly 12 years.
- “New start” construction funding was provided in fiscal year 1991.
- By 2003, the Olmsted project’s cost had ballooned to $1.06 billion and its optimum completion date, based on inefficient funding, had slipped to 2010.
- One year ago, with the release of the Adminstration’s proposed budget for FY 2012, the Corps told Congress that the project’s cost had risen to $2.046 billion. The project’s completion date was again pushed back to 2016.
- The Corps now has once again increased the Olmsted project’s estimated completion cost to $2.9 billion, a number that is stated in 2011 dollars and fails to account for inflation during the years remaining until construction is complete.
- 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.