Decades-delayed modernization of the Upper Mississippi locks system could finally be in sight with the help of billions in new infrastructure funding Congress recently approved. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes 2.5 billion dollars for inland waterways projects. That, plus annual spending could finally speed long-delayed replacement of 80-year-old Mississippi River locks, a key for Midwest agriculture.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the Army Corps of Engineers must soon tell Congress which specific projects it plans to fund. “That new planning is due in January, so I’m leading a letter with Rep. Hinson and several of our colleagues this week to the Corps on that very subject.”
But Army Corps decisions haven’t always been about money, but rather priorities outside the Midwest. “Improvements on the Ohio (River) are very important. I don’t want to say they’re more important than on the Mississippi, but we’ve got agriculture in the Midwest that’s affected by all this Corps of Engineer instruction.”
Referring to the Corps’ system of prioritizing projects that have for years put other projects ahead of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers; “So, I’m going to fight for the Mississippi River, just like people in the Indiana, Ohio would fight for their agriculture.”
The Army Corps included 4.5 million dollars in its Fiscal Year 2020 work plan for planning and design work on new Upper Mississippi locks and environmental restoration–the first new funding since 2012. Congress originally authorized Upper Mississippi River locks modernization in 2007.