Over the years, we’ve updated you quite a bit on IL Corn’s quest to update the locks and dams on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers.
The latest update is a sad, but true status quo. Congress seems to understand that locks and dams should be a priority, and they pass legislation that make locks and dams a priority, but we get no funding appropriated that puts teeth behind their legislation.
The most recently passed Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) is no exception. This bill does contain some needed reforms and authorizations, but without appropriations, honestly doesn’t mean much.
The best and most promising part of the bill changes the funding mechanism for Olmsted Lock and Dam to 85 percent from federal treasury and 15 percent from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Simply making a change that forces the U.S. Government to pay for their own crazy inefficiencies is significant – because it frees up money in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to start construction on other projects.
However, the most needed reform, an increase to the barge user fee that barge companies, farmers, and other river users all support, elludes us. This increase would put some real money back into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and help us to move lock and dam upgrades more quickly through the system.
Interesting that everyone who would be paying this fee supports it because new locks and dams would more than make the money back for them in efficiencies – but Congress still won’t pass it.
If this issue interests you, AND IT SHOULD because poor river transportation effects rock salt deliveries for icy Chicago streets and many other inputs you are used to, read our articles on this topic.