Lawmakers make Midwest river infrastructure top priority

River access plays a vital role in international agricultural trade. To help farmers secure overseas sales, lawmakers have added language in the appropriation budget to upgrade Midwest locks and dams.

Lawmakers have made river infrastructure a top priority so Midwest farmers can continue competing on a global scale.

“We remain hopeful that the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, NESP, will be one of the seven new starts, one of which will be an inland waterways project that was announced in the FY [fiscal year] 2021 appropriations package that was passed, but this is a decision that resides with the administration,” said Debra Calhoun, the senior VP of the Waterways Council.

If passed, the Army Corps of Engineers can overhaul older locks along the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Another initiative allowed under the Arm Corps’ 2020 budget will provide $4.5 million dollars to address other construction needs on the waterways.

As the pandemic continues to create challenges for the ag sector, experts say that improving locks can spur economic recovery.

“We absolutely need to focus on building out and constructing new locks, that will provide that reliability,” Calhoun said. “So, that means, we’ll have extra capacity on there if the current locks should go down.”