ASA Encouraged by Corps of Engineers Actions Toward Lock Dam Modernization

first_imgThe American Soybean Association (ASA) is encouraged by significant progress made this week toward modernizing locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. More than 75 percent of U.S. soybean exports move to world ports via the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems. The efficiency of these waterways has for many years been an important competitive advantage in overseas markets, but the system that has served so well for more than 60 years, is not up to modern standards. Older lock facilities are deteriorating, and key locations need to be expanded as soon as possible.This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it is preparing to make a draft proposal of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway Navigation Feasibility Study available for public comment and review. Also, the Associated Press reported that Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers, Chief of Engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said, “The sense of urgency comes from the fact that the system out there is limping along right now. The fear we have is that we’ll have some catastrophic breakdown in the system, which will have a major economic impact.””One of the few advantages U.S. soybean farmers have over our international competitors is an efficient transportation system, particularly an efficient inland waterway system,” said ASA Chairman Dwain Ford, a soybean producer from Kinmundy, Ill. “Barge transportation on these waterways is not only the most efficient, economical means of transportation, it is also the most environmentally friendly way of moving U.S. soybeans and other products to domestic and foreign markets.”To improve this transportation system, new 1,200-foot structures are needed at Locks 20, 21, 22, 24 and 25 on the Mississippi River, and the LaGrange and Peoria Locks on the Illinois River. Guide wall extensions are also needed on Mississippi River Locks 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. ASA fully supports and will urge Congress to provide appropriations for these improvements.In January, the Army Corps of Engineers issued its “draft tentative” plan, recommending a $2.3 billion investment for lock modernization and $5.3 billion for environmental restoration over the next 50 years. Five options for navigation improvements are being considered for building up to $2.3 billion worth of new locks on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Environmental projects would include flood plain restoration, island building and other work to help restore some of the river’s natural functions.The Corps said that the next step would be the preparation of a draft report in May, which will contain the draft proposal. The Corps will then hold public meetings in June before preparing the final report late this summer. All comments will be reflected in the final report. A Chief of Engineers Report containing recommendations will be prepared this fall for review by the Administration and submission to Congress.Details of the Corps’ preferred alternative include pre-construction engineering and design of seven new locks, and a framework plan to evaluate the need for construction of five other lock extensions, all of which ASA believes are absolutely vital to the future competitiveness of U.S. farmers.While U.S. farmers are fighting to maintain market share in a fiercely competitive global market place, our international competitors are investing in transportation infrastructure. Argentina has invested over $650 million in their transportation systems to make their grain more competitive. Brazil is reviving its water transport network to reduce shipping cost for soybeans by at least 75 percent. Due in part to these efforts, the two countries have captured 50 percent of the total growth in the world soybean market during the past three years.The total Mississippi Waterway and Illinois River Navigation System contains 37 lock and dam sites (43 locks), more than 650 manufacturing facilities, terminals, and docks, and provides valuable habitat and recreational opportunities. The system provides a means for shippers to transport millions of tons of commodities—122 million tons on the Mississippi River and 44 million tons on the Illinois Waterway—food and habitat for at least 485 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish, almost 285,000 acres of National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, water supply for 22 communities and many farms and industries, and a multi-use recreational resource providing more than 11 million recreational visits each year.Making the necessary upgrades to improve the Mississippi and Illinois Waterways would also protect and add new jobs. Navigation on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers supports over 400,000 jobs. Roughly 90,000 of those are high paying manufacturing jobs. Construction of new locks will create good paying jobs for decades.”The 25,000 farmer-members of the ASA urge Congress to provide $20 million in Pre-Construction Engineering and Design funding in FY-05 for new locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers,” Ford said. “Our antiquated locks are hurting U.S. soybean farmer competitiveness domestically and internationally. We need construction of at least seven new 1200-foot locks on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers authorized in the Water Resources Development Act. We call on the President and Congress to support these critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure.”last_img

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