CLINTON — Following his public appearance Thursday at LyondellBasell, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad went on a roughly three-hour river ride to tour Clinton’s segment of the Mississippi River.
The event, put together by Iowa Department of Transportation Commission Chairman Dave Rose, of Clinton, prompted another discussion that focused on the river’s lock and dam system.
Bordering the Iowa portion of the river are 11 lock and dams maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All but one have exceeded 20 years beyond their design lives. The average age for lock and dams in the Upper Mississippi region is 72, according to the DOT’s “U.S. Inland Waterway Modernization” study from February 2013. Their collected infrastructural grade, according to another 2009 report, was a “D-minus.”
The study showed trade growth on the Mississippi will increase 40 percent by 2039. However, according to the information, there will be a $5.5 billion shortfall for funding.
That study is what prompted Rose’s tour, which he called the “Pathway to the World.”
“When you have too small a lock and dam, they have to break barges up,” Rose said Monday as he detailed the trip that was a private event. “They say if you were a barge on the highway going to Davenport, and you had to stop for all of these impediments, it would take you three hours to get there. You’d go a few miles, hit a lock. A few more miles, hit a railroad bridge. A few more hit another lock. It’s really slow.”
Rose said the closest lock — No. 13 on Lock Road in Fulton, Illinois — has space enough to fit a single barge, despite the ever-growing imports-exports industry. According to him, Thursday’s trip featured several interruptions and delays as the local infrastructure impacted the event. This wasn’t unexpected — the DOT’s study showed Lock and Dam 13 had 75 hours in delays over a 10-year average.