Grain Transportation: Army Corps of Engineers Urged to Prioritize New Locks and Dams – DTN

    Photo: USACE

    The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law on Nov. 15 includes $2.5 billion for inland waterway construction projects. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has 60 days, until Jan. 15, 2022, to submit a plan to Congress with recommendations on how this funding should be spent.

    The law states that “priority should be given to projects included in the Corps’ Capital Investment Strategy (CIS), which includes 13 construction projects, seven of which are new 1,200-foot locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway (UMR-IW).”

    National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) President and CEO Mike Seyfert urged Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor to prioritize and fund the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) in a letter sent on Dec. 1.

    “The existing locks on the UMR-IW were built in the 1930s with 600-foot chambers to accommodate the standard vessels used for commerce during that time,” Seyfert noted. “However, today’s towboats can push a 1,200-foot-long tow of 15 barges, which must ‘double-lock’ through, resulting in significant, costly delays.”

    NGFA noted that constructing new 1,200-foot locks and dams would “boost U.S. agricultural competitiveness, create construction jobs and increase the overall efficiency and reliability of the inland waterways navigation system.”

    NGFA is asking its members to sign a petition addressing Acting Assistant Secretary (Civil Works) Jaime Pinkham, Major General William Graham and Mr. Vance Stewart to adhere to the recent Capital Investment Strategy and recommend that Congress fund Lock and Dam 25, LaGrange Lock and Dam, and Lock and Dam 24 to completion.

    NGFA members can find the petition on the website here.

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    Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director, Soy Transportation Coalition, said in an email to DTN that “While the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was recently signed into law provides funding for the inland waterway system as a category, work remains to ensure funding is specifically allocated to a number of the lock and dam projects, specifically Lock and Dam 25, LaGrange Lock and Dam, and Lock and Dam 24, that have lingered for years waiting for needed investment.”

    A total of 11 Senators and 41 House members wrote a letter to USACE requesting funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), specifically Lock and Dam 25 and Lock and Dam 24 on the Mississippi River and LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River.

    Steenhoek added that this letter was a strong bipartisan show of support from throughout the Midwestern states and added that the group of Senators and House members “clearly understand that it is time to finally move these projects forward.”

    Steenhoek added, “This is arguably the most opportune time for many years to make significant improvements to this system. We hope our national leaders truly embrace this opportunity.”

    Here is a link to the letter written by the Senate and House: here.

    Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

    Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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