After more than a decade of pressing for needed improvements on the Depression-era Upper Mississippi River lock and dam system, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 has been passed by Congress.
The bill authorizes $1.95 billion in federal funds for seven new locks and an additional $1.72 billion for environmental restoration. Part of the project’s costs will come from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund paid into by the barge and towing industry through a fuel tax. Overall, new and continuing Corps of Engineers projects totaling $21 billion are authorized in the bill.
The Mississippi River is a crucial transportation route for Missouri crop farmers and grain marketers. WRDA provides authorization for seven 1,200-foot locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Corn Growers Association have been advocates for repairing the outdated river system and improving access to the international markets.
"The Mississippi River transportation system is key to both exports and imports," says Mike Geske, MCGA president and corn grower from Matthews. "We need access to grain and livestock markets around the world, but our cities and towns also need the ability to import basic commodities like steel, building materials and petroleum products."
It is estimated that 60% of U.S. grain exports are transported via the Mississippi River. The construction of seven new locks will help speed barge traffic, allowing farmers and businesses greater access to global markets.
“In the face of increasing competition in world commodity markets, the lock and dam modernization will improve efficiency for U.S. agricultural products exported overseas. With the traffic on the nation’s highways and railways expected to double in the next two decades, passage of WRDA is critical,” says Charles Kruse, MFB president.
Kruse commended Senator Kit Bond and Congressman Kenny Hulshof for their efforts in securing Congressional approval for the locks. The bill now awaits President Bush’s signature to become law.