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Release: Sorensen Applauds Inclusion of $75 Million for River Infrastructure Upgrades in Energy and Water Bill

June 20, 2023   Rep. Eric Sorensen (D, IL-17)

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June 20, 2023 

Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17), along with Congressman Sam Graves (MO-06), Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-16), and Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) applauded the inclusion of $75 million in the FY2024 House Energy and Water Appropriations bill to upgrade the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers’ navigation infrastructure.

"This historic investment in Illinois' waterway infrastructure will help our state's agriculture and economy boom like never before, solidifying our region as a leader in producing the corn and soybeans that feed the world," said Sorensen. "I'm urging the House and Senate to swiftly pass the bill with this critical funding to support our farmers and working families across Central and Northwestern Illinois.”


“The outdated locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River lead to delays and congestion that cost farmers and families untold millions,” said Congressman Graves. “The fact that the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee mark includes funding for the bipartisan project to upgrade these locks and dams is a big deal. It also continues to build on momentum for the project that’s been hard won in recent years. While we’re a long ways from the finish line, we’re going to continue fighting to make sure this funding moves forward.”


“In central and northwestern Illinois, the inland water waterway system and locks and dams infrastructure are vital to the economic and environmental sustainability of our communities,” said Congressman LaHood. “Inclusion of our funding request for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway in the FY24 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill is a win for Illinois, especially in our rural and downstate communities. I am proud to continue our strong, bipartisan support for these important Illinois resources.”

“Missouri’s Third District is home to several major waterways, including the Upper Mississippi River. These waterways play a critical role in our state’s trade, agriculture, tourism, and larger economy. This funding provides critical improvements to locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River to keep commerce flowing. I’m hopeful our momentum with this bipartisan, multi-state effort will continue so we can deliver these important resources to our area,” said Congressman Luetkemeyer.


“Family farmers in Central and Southern Illinois rely on the Mississippi River to transport their commodities to the global market. But the locks and dams they depend on are nearly a century old,” said Congresswoman Budzinski. “By modernizing our inland waterway infrastructure, we can help our family farmers get their corn and soybeans to market more quickly and ensure that these critical transportation routes are sound for years to come. I’m proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis with Representatives LaHood, Sorensen, Graves and Luetkemeyer to secure $75 million to upgrade our locks and dams, and I look forward to continuing to work to bring our waterways into the 21st century.”


“After decades of work making decision makers aware that our locks and dams are in dire need of repair and replacement, Illinois corn farmers are elated to see funding for NESP continue to be allocated at these levels. A new lock 25 on the Mississippi River began in 2023 and now $75 million for other priority locks as defined by NESP will likely jump start the next priority lock in need of replacement: LaGrange Lock and Dam near Beardstown. Agricultural exports are an economic driver for our country and our river infrastructure empowers the ag export engine. Thank you Congressman Sorensen and the members of the House Appropriations Committee for recognizing the vital need for river infrastructure investment,” said Matt Rush, President of the IL Corn Growers Association and farmer from Fairfield, IL.


"Over 60% of Illinois' soybeans are transported on barge via the NESP system, and the money being secured by Representative Eric Sorensen is vital to ensuring the long-term structural health of our aging lock and dam system. The river is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to export our commodities," said Illinois Soybean Association Chairman Steve Pitstick. "Additionally, this NESP funding is vital to keeping the natural ecosystem intact for numerous fish species living in the Mississippi and its tributaries."

“Illinois Farm Bureau is grateful for the leadership and efforts of members of Congress like U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, who helped secure $75 million to advance lock and dam improvements on the Upper Mississippi," said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. "Illinois farmers - in the 17th District and across the state - will benefit from Congressman Sorensen's efforts to modernize our outdated locks and dams."


“The riverfront communities in the 50 counties that are served by the Corn Belt Ports on the Illinois Waterway and the Upper Mississippi River are appreciative of the strong leadership we have representing us in Washington, D.C. that can deliver the badly needed federal investment to address our aging water resources infrastructure, to include our natural infrastructure. This is another big win,” said Chris Smith, Director of Operations at Corn Belt Ports.


“WCI is excited about the funding announcement for NESP and greatly appreciates the steadfast commitment from Congressman Sorensen and Congress to modernize the Locks and Dams on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. This program provides many direct benefits to Illinois, including thousands of skilled labor jobs, available access to export markets in the Gulf of Mexico for the agriculture community, and greater emissions reductions and efficiency throughout the inland waterways system. This $75 million provided for NESP will significantly help all Illinoisans,” said Tracy Zea, President and CEO of Waterways Council, Inc.


This funding will support the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), a long-term program of navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration for the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS).


This investment will reduce traffic delays along waterways and increase shipping capacity by constructing new 1,200-foot locks at locks 20 through 25 on the Mississippi River, as well as updating locks in Peoria and LaGrange on the Illinois River. By constructing new locks and upgrading outdated ones, agricultural goods will be exported faster and more efficiently.


This funding was requested as part of the Community Project Funding process, which allows members of Congress to designate funding for critical initiatives through the appropriations process. NESP funding is included in the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill, one of twelve appropriations bills passed each year by Congress. 

The funding will go to the full Appropriations Committee for approval, then to the House floor for a final vote.


Congressman Eric Sorensen is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to represent Illinois at the federal level and is a member of the New Democrat Coalition. He serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Prior to serving in Congress, Sorensen was a local meteorologist in Rockford and the Quad Cities for nearly 20 years. His district includes Illinois’ Quad Cities, Rockford, Peoria, and Bloomington-Normal.


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