Ag Groups, Lawmakers Urge Army Corps to Prioritize Lock & Dam Modernization

A group of House and Senate lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week urging prioritization of funding for construction of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS), which would be funded through $2.5 billion designated for inland waterways in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

This week, several agriculture groups including the American Soybean Association (ASA) sent a letter to the Army Corps to complement Congressional efforts.

Hundreds of locks and dams along the U.S. inland waterways system have exceeded their lifespans, which causes delays, greater costs and reduced transportation efficiency.

NESP would modernize and expand seven outdated locks at the most congested lock locations along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

In their letter, lawmakers point to the broader benefits the upgrades would generate.

“The regional and national economic benefits of NESP are significant, which is why the project was included in the December 2020 Inland and Intracoastal Waterways Twenty-Year Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) developed by the Corps and the Inland Waterways User Board (IWUB),” the letter states.

“Following the 2020 CIS including NESP construction will bring immediate financial and environmental benefits throughout the system that will reverberate through the economy.”

Both letters point to strong support in favor of the construction among ag industries and referenced the $1-million that the Soy Transportation Coalition and soy state affiliates raised for the Lock & Dam 25 project.

ASA, along with STC, the Waterways Council, National Grain and Feed Association, and others, worked to garner signatures for the Congressional letter and led efforts to develop the coalition letter urging swift action to get NESP started.

Upgrading the aging inland waterways systems is critical to increasing barge capacity for shipping larger loads of U.S. soybeans to international customers.

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