May 21, 2024

ICGA monitors lock upgrades

Mark Bunselmeyer

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — About 36.4 million tons of food and food products, including corn and soybeans, are shipped annually via Illinois waterways and are dependent upon locks and dams that were built in the 1930s.

Improving the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio River transportation system has been an a priority for commodity groups, including the Illinois Corn Growers Association, for decades and Congress has finally appropriated funding for lock and dam upgrades.

Mark Bunselmeyer of Decatur, ICGA District 7 director representing Dewitt, Macon, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt and Woodford counties and Grassroots Committee chair, said work began on Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield, Missouri, and he hopes the LaGrange Lock and Dam updates will also begin as planned.

“Work on Lock 25 got started. They did the groundbreaking in May of this year. It’s an extensive project, almost an $800 million project. It’s initial planning was in 2020 and they now have the funding,” Bunselmeyer said.

“With inflation that we’ve had over the last few years, the project has gotten more expensive. So, the new ask from the Waterways Council and Illinois Corn for the Water Resources Development Act 2024 is for Congress to approve funding the project completely as opposed to what the initial cost was for the project before inflation.”

Lock and Dam 25 located in Calhoun County, Illinois, and Lincoln County, Missouri, opened in 1939. The project includes construction of a new 1,200-foot lock. The existing 600-foot lock will remain in place as an auxiliary lock chamber to be used primarily by recreation traffic.

The new lock would be able to accommodate the largest tow configurations on the Upper Mississippi River and would reduce per-locker times from 2 1/2 hours or more to about 45 minutes, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

With 600-foot chambers, a typical 15-barge tow would need to disassemble into two sections, resulting in two passes through the lock.

The Illinois River’s LaGrange Lock and Dam’s 110-by-600-foot chamber was completed in 1939. Initial work on plans for a new 1,200-foot lock chamber began this year.

“It took 18 years, but we finally got Lock 25 in Winfield, Missouri, started and hopefully the LaGrange lock will start, too, in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. We hope that we can just continue to make improvements up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and keep expanding,” Bunselmeyer said.

Partnership

ICGA is a member of the Waterways Council and that relationship spans two decades in their efforts to push for Congress to support upgrading the antiquated locks and dams.

Bunselmeyer attended the Waterway Council’s 20th annual Waterways Symposium in New Orleans Nov. 13-15.

“They gave updates on different projects that they’re working on and future plans and considerations policy-wise for the upcoming Waterway Resource Development Act 2024 and other similar issues,” he noted.

“We’ve been partners with the Waterways Council since it started 20 years ago and we work with them hand-in-hand in lobbying legislators to get funding to start these projects.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor