Legislation to mend a failing river transportation infrastructure by authorizing construction of 1,200-foot locks and major ecosystem restoration on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers system is inching closer to becoming law, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). In a 91 to 4 vote May 16, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

“Corn growers are optimistic with the speed in which this legislation has been addressed so far,” said Ken McCauley, NCGA president. “However, we remain firm that this legislation is essential to the economy, and we urge the House and Senate to work together and get a final bill to the president.”

In addition, McCauley thanked the bill’s backers. “NCGA commends Senators Barbara Boxer, James Inhofe and members of the Environment and Public Works Committee for the strong bipartisan effort to move this bill forward,” he said.

WRDA, which has not been authorized in seven years, includes authorization of $14 billion in nationwide water resources projects, including building seven locks, ecosystem and wetlands restoration, beach restoration, port upgrade and flood control.

“Both Congress and the White House must understand the critical impact the river transportation system has on all businesses and consumers, not just producers,” he said. “WRDA is modernization to our port system, environmental restoration and flood control. This bill is about jobs, the cost of importing goods and the shipping of other commodities such as coal, steel and construction materials. This country is seriously delinquent on its upkeep of our inland waterways infrastructure system.”

McCauley also said, “It has been made very clear through the adverse weather conditions and the river shutdowns over the past few years how important the inland waterways system is in the transportation of all goods.”

The bill now heads to a House and Senate conference committee.