A report card published this week by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave inland waterways a D-, confirming the need to  fund lock-and-dam restoration in the economic stimulus package before Congress.

“The average age of all federally owned or operated locks is nearly 60 years, well past their life planned design of 50 years,” the ASCE report states. “The cost to replace the present system of locks is estimated at more than $125 billion.”

The National Corn Growers Association and other key business, labor and environmental organizations have urged funding for locks and dams in the economic stimulus package that is currently pending before Congress. The U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated that, for every $1 billion invested in navigation or ecosystem restoration, nearly 35,000 jobs would be created. More than 1 billion bushels of grain (approximately 60 percent of all grain exports) move to export markets via the inland waterways each year, accounting for $8.5 billion in exports.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the economic stimulus legislation last night with $4.5 billion allocated for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for inland waterways. However, technical language within the bill prohibits money from being spent on any of the seven locks on the Upper Mississippi or Illinois rivers that were authorized in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act.

These locks are considered “new starts” and the House chose only to fund projects that are already in the construction phase. Similar language also exists in the Senate version of the legislation, although a floor vote on that chamber is not expected until next week.

Source: National Corn Growers Association