Concerns over the condition of the water transportation infrastructure were put into perspective recently by Stewart Truelsen, columnist for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Focus on Agriculture.

“There’s hardly a school kid who is not familiar with the American folksong, ‘Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal.’ The song went by a number of names including ‘Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal,’” Truelsen wrote.

“If you remember your American history, you’ll recall that the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo, N.Y., was a marvelous engineering feat. Work commenced in 1817 and the 363-mile canal was finished by 1825, just eight years later.

“Today, it would take the entire eight years just to study whether the canal should be built and that is no exaggeration.

“The canal cost $7 million to construct. Nowadays, the rehabilitation of one lock on an inland waterway can cost $50 million.

“Farmers were some of the strongest supporters of building the Erie Canal while President James Monroe opposed it. The New York legislature went ahead without federal support and costs were recovered from tolls.

“The Erie Canal is credited with making New York City the financial capital of America.”

Farmers and agriculture groups have been lobbying legislators for over a decade to fund water transportation upgrades.

The Water Resources Development Act passed the Senate in May and is expected to be taken up by the House this fall.

“WRDA will help the United States retain its position as the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products. Without it, we face the prospect of falling behind a big competitor like Brazil that is modernizing its infrastructure,” Truelsen wrote.

Congress also passed a WRDA bill in 2007 and even took the time to override President George Bush’s veto. However, no funds were appropriated for those projects and programs.

Many of the barge’s “roadways” were constructed when Model Ts were the primary means of transportation — along with a few one-horsepower modes with four legs.

Fifty-seven percent of the nation’s locks and dams on the inland waterways system have exceeded their economic design life expectancy of 50 years, with some being constructed eight decades ago. By 2020, more than 80 percent of U.S. locks will be functionally obsolete.

The concrete is crumbling, lock sizes are no longer suitable for today’s needs, and the clock keeps on ticking.

Low bridge, everybody down

Low bridge for we’re coming to a town

And you’ll always know your neighbor

And you’ll always know your pal

If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal