Upper Mississippi and Illinois River locks modernization faces new funding hurdles in a more fiscally conservative Congress, but a key project backer hopes a new capital management plan will finally jump-start the long awaited project.
The 20-year Inland Waterway Capital Development Plan, assembled by private industry and the Army Corps, could give Upper Mississippi locks modernization a fighting chance for construction dollars in a more Republican Congress. Waterways Council spokeswoman Debra Colbert says the plan proposes a national prioritized list of navigation projects.
"We look at economic benefits and project conditions," Colbert said. "The plan really offers a path forward for more efficiently completing around 25 navigation projects including Upper Mississippi and Illinois River projects over a six-year period."
Some 200 groups back the plan to get projects like the locks modernization moving. What's been known as WRDA has been struggling to win construction dollars ever since Congress authorized them over former President Bush's 2007 veto.
Colbert says the plan also calls for raising the tax paid by commercial users of the waterway system. That could raise objections from politically-strengthened anti-tax Republicans.
"When we look at the new order of the 112th Congress, the word tax and raising taxes is very unpopular," Colbert said. "Even though we're asking to tax ourselves in a responsible way, we really need to look at other ways to express this plan."
Colbert's group pushed last week at a Senate hearing to include the Capital Development Plan in a new water projects bill, not expected to see final action until the new Congress.