A 74-year-old lock and dam on the Illinois River is due for upgrade money in, oh, about another 74 years or so. That's why two members of the Illinois delegation – U. S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U. S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-East Moline) were at the Peoria Lock and Dam Thursday – to push for a Water Resources Development Act. As recently as 1995, the lock and dam moved 34 million tons of goods. Illinois Soybean Association treasurer Rob Shaffer of El Paso, Ill., says that number is now down around 22 million.
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He says only good things can come from investing in this inland infrastructure. “Jobs. There's all kinds of stuff that goes along with this. Public-private partnerships, maintenance, construction jobs - fuel, that kind of stuff. Anything that's good for the state of Illinois, as far as the economy goes, is also good for the nation,” he said. “There is a current authorization to allow for some lock and dams to be expanded from their current 600-foot length to a 1200-foot length,” said Col. Mark Deschenes, commander of the Rock Island District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The problem, he said, is the backlog that puts help for Peoria toward the next turn of the century.
The bill to expedite things has passed the Senate.