In the News

Bipartisan effort works to fund lock & dam system upgrades (opinion)

July 11, 2023   Quad City Times

View Source

For years, the lock and dam system on the Mississippi River has been falling into disrepair. The system was created under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and has been instrumental in bringing agricultural goods and products from other industries, from the Midwest, down the Mississippi, to be exported around the world.


The lock and dam system was built in the 1930s. At the time, the system had an expected life span of 50 years – it has now been in operation for nearly 90 years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been entrusted with keeping the system running, an increasingly difficult task, considering they have not been provided with the necessary tools. Maintenance for the system consists of downtime and costly repairs. Additionally, the river is having to accommodate higher rates of traffic, which is proving challenging for the already dated system. Improvements are necessary to ensure supply chain efficiency.


Luckily, with the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, the system is getting a much-needed upgrade to create a two-way system to minimize the bottlenecks and delays of a one-way system. To ensure these projects are completed, the Illinois delegation is working across the aisle with congressional members from each side of the Mississippi.


Congressman Eric Sorensen (D – Rock Island), along with Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (D – Springfield) and Congressman Darin LaHood (R – Peoria) are working to fully fund the system. As part of their efforts, they fought for the inclusion of $75 million in the FY2024 House Energy and Water Appropriations bill to upgrade the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers’ navigation infrastructure. This funding is for the Navigation Ecosystem Program (NESP), an innovative program addressing the long-neglected needs of both navigation and habitat. NESP funds important projects to support barge traffic while ensuring natural fish species can thrive.


Over 60% of soybeans and agricultural products produced in Illinois are exported, and the river is the main artery used to export. The waterways are not only an important economic tool, but an important environmental tool as well. Transportation on barges is the most cost efficient and environmentally friendly way to transport large loads. Barges can move a ton of cargo 647 miles on a single gallon of fuel – significantly reducing GHG emissions.


Congressman Sorensen understands the importance of the lock and dam system and NESP to the entire Midwest, not only Illinois. For this reason, he led the effort to fund upgrades to this vital infrastructure.