When U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley and U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos and Ashley Hinson join forces in Washington to back a project, you know it’s something that’s good for the tri-states.

Those four formed a united front to prioritize the construction of the long-planned Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program with the $2.5 billion for inland waterways provided in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The program would replace seven locks and dams lower down on the upper Mississippi River and include ecosystem restoration projects all along the region’s stretch of the river. The lock and dam replacements would increase efficiencies along the Mississippi and move Locks and Dams 10, 11 and 12 in the TH coverage area further up in the queue to be replaced in the future.

That the locks and dams on the Mississippi River are in poor shape and seemingly on borrowed time is common knowledge.

For example, the lock-and-dam structures in Dubuque, Bellevue and Guttenberg, Iowa, were completed in the late 1930s. All three have stood for more than 80 years, despite being designed with only a 50-year life expectancy.

This transportation system, which moves substantial amounts of U.S. grain, petroleum and coal, is aged and undersized. Further, there are environmental concerns linked to river transportation, many associated with maintaining the minimum 9-foot-deep channel that shippers require.

The problems are easy to identify. The solutions? Not so much. But Americans need to apply our knowledge, our experience and our innovation in improving this vital system. Consider that a 15-barge tow can haul as much dry cargo as more than a thousand trucks.

A salute to the tri-state delegation for their efforts to bring improvements to a system that is absolutely essential to U.S. agriculture and the U.S. economy.

— Dubuque Telegraph Herald

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