Congressional Delegation Tours Quad City Lock and Dam - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Congressional Delegation Tours Quad City Lock and Dam

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The Army Corps of Engineers says they have $60-billion in backlogged construction projects which has left locks and dams in need of major repairs. Local congressional representatives from Illinois and Iowa toured locks and dams from Dubuque down to Fort Madison promoting a way to help get repairs done.

"A lot of people don't realize that this infrastructure helps the entire nation," says Gary Meden with the Army Corps of Engineers, "Over 60% of our exported grain goes down the Mississippi River."

34-billion pounds of goods goes through lock and dam 15 in the Quad Cities annually. When barge traffic stops it affects the economy, because goods aren't being shipped.

"We can't notify industry until it breaks," adds Meden, "A lot of the time don't know how long it will take to repair, because we haven't had the chance to manufacture the items to repair them."."

Meden says the problem is local locks and dams were built during the Great Depression making them around 80-years old.

"They were designed with a 50-year design life and obviously at 80-years old they're way past that," says Meden.

He says permanent repairs have not been made, because the money's not there. During a tour of the lock and dam 15 on Arsenal Island a Congressional delegation promoted a bill  that will create public-private funding for repairs.

"We cannot fund things the way we did in the past, it is not same," says Representative Cheri Bustos (D) IL District 17, "It's just not going to work, so we have to look for innovative approaches to investing in our infrastructure."

The delegation, which also included Representative Dave Loebsack and Representative Bruce Braley, say they have support from farmers and manufacturers who use the river to ship their good overseas.

"If we can't get the type of appropriations we need from the federal government than we need to reach out to the private sector," says Representative Dave Loebsack (D) IA District 2.

Meden says something needs to be done, because if barge traffic stops more often, the worse it is for the industry.

"At some point if the confidence level goes too low they may stop using the system all together," says Meden.

If the bill is passed it would create a pilot program for public-private funding, but the details are still being worked out. Also, there would a 3rd party involved to monitor the program if it gets approved.

We reached out to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, he sent us this statement: "I'm working with state officials in Iowa, interested parties, and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop ideas for moving forward with construction and maintenance of the locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River.  It's vitally important that this inland waterway system remain a dynamic and reliable route to domestic and international markets.  I've also been working with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on legislation that addresses these issues for the Mississippi River."