QUINCY — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last week it will use $732 million in federal infrastructure funding to modernize Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield, Mo., on the Mississippi River to improve the shipment of grain and soybeans.
The Corps also announced it will spend $97.1 million on environmental restoration at Lock and Dam 22 near Saverton, Mo.
Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy, however, didn’t get a dime.
“The important first step is that the Winfield Lock and Dam is going to be expanded. It is going to cut down transportation time and really help our farming community out,” said Kyle Moore, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation. “It’s a good step in the right direction. Hopefully after this project gets done, they’ll move on to other projects.”
The Army Corps will design and construct a lock replacement at Winfield, about 50 miles north of St. Louis. Opened in 1939, the system is well past its 50-year design life. The lock chamber measuring 1,200 feet by 110 feet will be built. The time for a typical 15-barge tow will be cut from two hours to 30-45 minutes.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the industry group the Soy Transportation Coalition, told the website MarineLink.com that nearly every bushel of soybeans and corn shipped along the Mississippi River from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin passes through Lock and Dam 25 to export facilities near the Gulf of Mexico.
Congress voted in 2007 to replace seven aging locks and dams
Before last week’s announcement, Congress had delayed funding since its 2007 authorization for replacing seven aging locks and dams in Missouri and Illinois — one of them Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy.
A 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, reported in the American Journal of Transportation, warned that the failure to modernize these and other locks and dams increased costs of U.S. farm exports and helped Brazilian exporters close the cost gap with the United States. The study noted U.S. barge traffic delays as a result of growing lock and dam malfunctions on the Mississippi and other rivers have risen from 35 percent in 2010 to 49 percent in 2017.
“Many of us in economic development have been asking Congress to fund those projects,” Moore said. “It was one of those things where Washington, D.C., patted themselves on the back and said, ‘Hey, we got this done,’ and they never put any money behind it.
“(Lock and dam improvements) need to be done up and down the Mississippi, not only in Winfield but in Quincy. If you think about the number of times that we flood now compared to previous years, it’s that important. Building locks that can withstand higher flood levels is important, keeping them open during times of flooding. It keeps transportation going on the Mississippi River.”
The 600-foot long lock at Quincy opened in 1938. It is too short to accommodate modern tows. A barge tow must be broken into two sections.
Moore: GREDF championing ‘regional approach’
The Upper Mississippi River System transports more than 60 percent of America’s corn and soybeans. It also is home to 25 percent of North America’s fish species, and it is a globally important flyway for 40 percent of North America’s migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. However it also has suffered disruptions due to infrastructure problems. The river was shut to vessel traffic in May 2021 near Memphis, Tenn., because of a bridge fracture, causing a backlog of more than 1,000 barges.
Moore says GREDF is championing a “regional approach” to getting major projects completed along the river.
“We just continue to talk with our legislators whenever we have the opportunity,” he said. “We tell the business side of the story. Any time the Mississippi River is shut down, the transportation costs just skyrocket for our industries here in Adams County.”
The Army Corps allocated funds for the project from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
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