President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act into law today, signaling agreement that updating locks and dams, not just maintaining them, needs to be a priority.
The bill reforms the funding mechanism for Olmsted Lock and Dam completion, authorizing 85% of the funding to come from the federal government and only 15% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This frees up money to begin construction on locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
"We are happy that WRRDA is now signed into law," said Illinois Corn Growers Association President Gary Hudson. "However, we've been in this position before; our locks and dams are antiques and we have to modernize them. Authorizations to do so are nice, but we will never get anywhere without funding."
"Farmers and other U.S. industry have the means to increase our exports and build economic activity within the U.S., but we simply cannot export more goods without upgrading our locks and dams," he said. "The funding to accomplish these goals will come from a barge user fee that industry supports, but is noticeably absent from this bill."
The Illinois Corn Growers Association, along with their partners in the Waterways Council Inc., will continue to work for new locks and dams, including appropriations for the funding authorized in WRRDA 2014 and an increased user fee that will raise the money needed for major construction and upgrades.