The top five endangered locks of the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB) were targeted by the Midwest Area River Coalition (MARC 2000). As the federal budget is being debated, rehabilitation work and general construction funding for FY05 are provided for at $48.2 million less, or 53%, below their project capability.

This under-funding demonstrates the continued jeopardy of the deteriorating river’s infrastructure, a system enjoyed by everyone in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, and taken for granted for decades. One barge tow passing through a river lock & dam system carries the equivalent of 870 trucks.

The deteriorating locks needing urgent attention are Locks & Dams 24 (Clarksville, MO); 11 (Dubuque, IA); 3 (Welch, MN); 19 (Keokuk, IA); and 27 (Granite City, IL). River traffic originating or terminating on the UMRB accounts for approximately 40% invested into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, a national fuel tax depository. Only 15% is traditionally invested back into the UMRB.

Other funding projects missing from the President’s budget include $38 million to address critical backlog maintenance for 70-year-old lock & dam sites on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. “Inattention to basic needs puts our harvest potential and energy production in the Midwest at risk,” says Rick Tolman, MARC 2000 Chairman and CEO of the National Corn Growers Association.

MARC 2000 calls for $20 million in Preconstruction Engineering Design (PED) in the FY05 budget to prepare for inevitable lock modernization of the almost 70-year-old infrastructure. As the Corps of Engineers Navigation Study comes to a close, positioning the Basin for future prosperity and economic growth in a timely manner is imperative.

“Calling rivers ‘endangered’ is an annual routine for some professional activist groups who oppose the locks & dams system. The rationale behind the ‘endangered’ label is suspect,“ says Chris Brescia, President of MARC 2000. “We want to get the truth out that the infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway is what’s truly in peril, and our economic viability, environment, and public safety are all in jeopardy. Our infrastructure can’t even maintain the status quo as these older locks need more and more attention with age. ”