In regard to a story in the Thursday paper about “Senate, White House at odds over river lock funding” I have just a couple things to say.

First, the commercial river traffic is not for the benefit of the barge operators, it is for your benefit. You like electricity? Coal moves by barge to many electrical power plants along our river, including Clinton’s. You like to drive on streets that don’t have ice and snow on them in winter? Salt moves by barge to all the cities and towns along our river. Farmers win two ways. First fertilizer, including anhydrous ammonia, moves by barge and then the farmer is able to ship his crops (not limited to corn and beans either) to blue water markets.

Without lock expansion to 1,200 feet, our Upper Mississippi Valley is going to be in trouble. Locks 20, 21, 22, 24 and 25 on our river plus two more over on the Illinois River are the ones targeted for modernization.

We aren’t asking that the government pay lock, stock and barrel because the Inland Waterways Trust Fund totals for the last fiscal year are $98,949,323.88 in revenues (including $91,287,000 in waterway fuel taxes and $7,662,323.88 in interest) and transfers to the Army Corps of Engineers for inland navigation construction and major rehabilitation of $136,319,500, a record.

The tax is 20 cents per gallon on the fuel used for propulsion on 27 inland waterways specified in Congressional acts. The money is used only for navigation construction (mainly lock replacements) and major rehabilitation on the fuel-taxed waterway system. From time to time, the Corps of Engineers has to divert funds to emergencies, such as dredging Gulf Coast Waterways following the recent hurricanes, but usually the money is paid back to the various accounts from subsequent enactments.

Did you ever stop to think what would happen if just one of the locks on the Upper Mississippi River failed due to old age and collapsed? River traffic would come to a complete standstill. But if that happened over on the Ohio River it wouldn’t be a disaster because every dam on on that river has two locks. And, right now a new dam and two 1,200-foot locks are being built between Paducah, Ky., and the river mouth to replace the last two old wicket dams. No one is screaming about that project.

While I am on my soap box, I also have something to say about the story in the Saturday paper “Board to prioritize PPEL.” Not on my nickel they aren’t! No! Kids go to school to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, history, government and skills that will give them the tools to be productive citizens. You don’t learn those things playing games. Sure, sports are fun, but only for a few of the students. And, even though you learn sportsmanship, there is more to making a living than that.

Also, new buildings don’t make smarter kids! My grandchildren in New Mexico attended a basic one room school from kindergarten to eighth grade. The focus of this 28-student school is reading, writing, arithmetic and deportment. The students enter state academic competitions and always come out if not the No. 1, within the top five in the state. No frills education. I’m all for it!

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