A funding mechanism may soon be at hand for improvements to the locks and dams that get barges up and down the rivers. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a nine-cent increase in the tax on diesel fuel sold to the tow boats that ply the rivers. The Senate is expected to act soon, and the president says he supports this. Illinois Farm Bureau President Rich Guebert says, provided there is any money, he hopes the most pressing needs are addressed first.
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“I have not visited with the Corps of Engineers to see what plans are basically what they call shovel-ready. We’ll see what happens here in the months to come, but hopefully they can get some of those areas addressed as soon as possible,” he said.
Guebert identified as priorities for upgrades Mississippi River Lock No. 27 at Granite City, built in 1953, and Lock & Dam No. 25 at Batchtown, in Calhoun County, built in 1939.
Upgrades are also needed on the Illinois River. The Olmstead Lock & Dam project is under way on the Ohio River.
The diesel tax would go from 20 cents a gallon to 29 cents. It’s expected to increase funding for these river projects by $27 million to $34 million a year. It has been 20 years since the tax was raised.