Senators call to fund aging lock and dam system

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U.S. senators from three states are joining forces to help the navigation system on the Mississippi River. They want federal funding to fix the aging, outdated lock and dam set-up.

During a beautiful Wednesday along the Mississippi, a barge makes its way down river. But conditions at the river's lock and dam system aren't so picture perfect.

"In order to keep the system maintained and operating in an adequate way, we need more funds to make sure it keeps going," said Dennis Shannon, a lock and dam supervisor with the Army Corps of Engineers.

That's why a bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa want something done. In a joint letter, they're calling for funding to fix the aging 70-year-old system. These days, it's often too small and outdated to work properly.

"It's expensive to find parts, to make parts and keep those things going," said Larry Daily, president of Alter Logistics Company.

At Lock and Dam 14 near LeClaire, the Army Corps of Engineers does a remarkable job during challenging times. It's part of a system that handles $12 billion worth of products each year.

"We're always hopeful that we get additional funds to fund our backlog of maintenance," Shannon said.

Federal legislation passed five years ago but was never funded. In calling for action, the senators write that a troubling lack of upkeep is crippling the ability to move goods safely and efficiently.

They call the Mississippi a backbone of the nation's waterway system. It's a system that moves more than one billion bushels of grain to ports around the world. Long term solutions and funding have become a necessity.

"It's time to do something and keep the system working for everybody," said Daily, who also serves as chairman of the Inland Waterway User Board.

Supporters hope that the feds will fund 25 projects over 25 years instead of just five.

"The only way we can export Iowa farm jobs is to stop this transportation system, which allows them to get the product from Iowa to China cheaper than corn going from South America to China," Daily concluded.

With Wednesday's barge on the move from LeClaire, it just can't afford to wait.