The series of locks and dams spanning the Upper Mississippi River allow for commercial traffic to navigate efficiently. (Photo Credit: File/Iowa Soybean Association)
Legislators urge support on lock and dam projects
December 16, 2021 | Bethany Baratta
Investments in infrastructure vital to soy transportation were front and center in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Supported by members of Iowa’s congressional delegation, the bicameral, bipartisan letter urged the agency to prioritize funding for construction of the Navigation and Ecosystems Sustainability Program (NESP) on the Upper Mississippi River System.
This construction would utilize the $2.5 billion provided in the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act for inland waterways infrastructure projects.
NESP would modernize and expand seven outdated locks at the most congested lock locations along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, including Locks and Dams #24 and #25. In addition, it would provide funding for more than $1 billion in ecosystem restoration.
Construction of 1,200-foot lock chambers at seven strategic locations on the Upper Mississippi River system will create almost 50 million person-hours of living wage construction jobs. A 2019 study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that rebuilding locks would inject $72 billion additional dollars into the nation’s GDP.
Located in Winfield, Mo., Lock and Dam #25 assists in moving 200 million bushels of soybeans annually from growers in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, according to the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service. Located just north of Dam #25, Lock and Dam #24 is located at Clarksville, Missouri. It opened in May 1940, and has exceeded its 50-year design life, according to the U.S. Army Corps.
“These projects have been vetted through a collaborative process between the Corps and the navigation industry, and there is strong support among both the navigation and agriculture industries for their construction,” says the letter signed by 11 Senators and 41 House members.
The letter says that a number of farmer organizations have recently offered $1 million of their own funds to get NESP started. The $1 million would specifically be utilized to help offset the pre-engineering and design expenses of Lock and Dam #25. The $1 million funding offer was achieved via a $100,000 allocation from the Iowa Soybean Association and contributions from other farmer organizations.
Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) Executive Director Mike Steenhoek said he appreciates the support from members of the House and Senate in prioritizing these important infrastructure investments.
“This is arguably the best opportunity in many years to move some of these lingering lock and dam projects toward construction,” Steenhoek says.
Senator Grassley helped lead the effort to generate support within the Senate while Congresswoman Hinson helped lead the effort in the House. Senator Ernst, Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, and Congresswoman Axne signed onto the letter.
“We appreciate Senator Grassley, Congresswoman Hinson, and the other members of the delegation who are supportive of the letter,” Steenhoek said. “It’s a strong bipartisan show of support from throughout the Midwestern states.”
Read the letter: Dec 16 Lock and Dam letter of support.pdf