by Congressman Bruce Braley, D-IA
The Mississippi River connects Iowa communities, businesses, and farmland to the world. A series of 27 locks and dams managed by the Army Corps of Engineers along the river - 11 of them in Iowa - make the Mississippi navigable to barges that use the river every day to transport items as varied as corn and coal to market. The river is vital to Iowa's agriculture economy; in fact, 92 percent of all US agriculture exports travel down the Mississippi River.
Sadly, for years, Congress has neglected the needs of these locks and dams, leaving the Army Corps of Engineers overwhelmed and years behind schedule on updates. The Army Corps of Engineers currently estimates that they're facing a $60 billion backlog of outstanding construction projects in their lock and dam system. It's important to Iowa's economy that we find a way to fix our locks and dams, and do it fast.
Last month, I traveled down the Mississippi River from the Minnesota border to Missouri to see our locks and dams firsthand, and talk to local officials about the critical upgrades the system needs. I was joined by Reps. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Cheri Bustos (IL-17), who also represent counties that border the Mississippi River.
Based on what I saw, it's clear Congress must work together to find creative ways to more quickly get the upgrades to the locks and dams that are so desperately needed.
That's why I've signed on to a bipartisan bill called Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act (WIN P3). The bill would create public-private partnerships between the Army Corps of Engineers and private companies to help finance critical lock and dam improvements.
Creating these partnerships will help the Mississippi River locks and dams get the upgrades they need, creating jobs and encouraging economic growth. Our proposal is a creative way to fund lock and dam modernization and one that will speed up badly-needed improvements.
The Mississippi River is incredibly important to Iowa and exploring public-private partnerships to fund improvements is an alternative worth pursuing that won't add to the national debt. We must continue to work so the river continues to be an economic force that Iowans can rely on for years to come.