Upgrades currently underway on the Illinois River locks and dams have been a long time coming.
“I’m just so glad to see the work finally being done,” says Marty Marr, a farmer leader in the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
All of the locks are between 80 and 90 years old, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
A healthy waterway system is imperative for the agricultural industry, which relies on the river system. Corn, soybeans and other grains, crop protection products, petroleum products and manufactured goods are routinely moved on the waterway.
Marr says he believes the updates to the locks and dams will have a positive impact on basis, once completed.
“Right now, it’s something that we have to grind through, but I think it's something everybody wants to see done—everybody knows the need is there,” Marr says. “We’ll have a much-improved waterway system to work with, and we’re hopeful the work is completed on time.”
Timely completion is important because, unlike some of the upper Mississippi locks and dams, the Illinois River usually remains open for business throughout the year.
Just over 27 million tons of cargo pass through the LaGrange Lock annually (based on a three-year average between 2015 and 2017), which makes LaGrange the busiest lock on the waterway, according to a press release distributed by Waterways Council, Inc.
Work on the locks and dams began July 1 on LaGrange in Versailles and Starved Rock in Utica, according to the release. Work has since commenced on locks and dams at Peoria, Marseilles and Dresden Island. All work is scheduled, currently, to be completed by the end of October.
To pay for the project, a cost-share program is being worked on by the Senate. Marr says that up to 25% of the money needed could come from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
More information on the project is available from Marr’s interview with AgriTalk host Chip Flory here: