Water Resources Act

Illinois agriculture groups and officials applauded the passage last week of legislation that would authorize major renovations of the locks and dams on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers.
The U.S. House and the U.S. Senate both approval the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA). The house voted on the bill on May 20, passing it by a 412-4 margin. The Senate then approved the bill on May 22 by a vote of 91-7.
"Passing the WRRDA bill is a small victory, and its provision to change th funding of Olmsted Lock and Dam construction to 85 percent federal will free up Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) monies to start construction on other locks and dams," said Gary Hudson, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
"However, this is only an authorization bill. Real change is not affected until appropriations for this spending come from Congress and until we increase the barge fuel user fee to grow available funds in the IWTF."
The bill passage also was greeted with enthusiasm from the Illinois State Farm Bureau.
"The passage of WRRDA is extremely good news for farmers in Illinois and throughout the nation," said a statement from the ISFB. "It is an important step in providing critical economic benefits, including benefits for the agricultural sector, as more than 60 percent of America's grain exports move through the inland waterway system.
"The flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation's aging locks and dams that are authorized under WRRDA are long overdue. Having an efficient, reliable system of locks, dams and ports – as outlined in this bill – is critical if the U.S. is to remain competitive  in the global marketplace."
Under the new system, 85 percent of the funding for Olmstead Lock and Dam construction will be from federal sources. That shifts the beginning of construction on LaGrange from 2070 to 2030, and on Lock 25 from beginning in 2064 to 2030.
Experts say that new locks and dams are still several generations away. Yet current locks and dams are rapidly deteriorating.
"We are eager to see Congress get behind some really significant change so that farmers and other manufacturers can continue exporting American goods and participating in a global marketplace," said Hudson of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
Similarly, the Illinois Farm Bureau supports efforts to upgrade the transportation system as a way to "spur the economy and build demand for agriculture products.
"Because more than 60 percent of America's grain exports move through the inland U.S. water system, the bill's emphasis on modernizing ports as well as our system of locks and dams is critical to ensuring the future competitiveness of Illinois farmers."

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