Washington, DC – U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced the administration will provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $10 million in funding for major rehabilitation work for the LaGrange Lock located south of Beardstown, IL in Cass County. 

Additionally, the administration is authorizing $1 million in funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), which was authorized in 2007 to expand seven locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers but halted by the last administration. The Army Corps of Engineers has insisted a new study is needed before construction on projects can begin. The House is expected to pass the FY 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations this week and language included by Davis requires this re-evaluation to be completed by 2020.

“LaGrange has been in dire need of repairs for years, making this funding much overdue,” said LaHood. “Our farmers and manufacturers rely on waterways to get their goods to market, and the LaGrange lock plays a vital role in that process. By funding these much-needed repairs, we will be strengthening our local economy for years to come and I applaud this Administration for taking action on this critical issue.”

“Every time a shutdown occurs at LaGrange, which is becoming more and more frequent, Illinois’ economy takes a small hit and our competitive edge with other nations to quickly move ag commodities to market is impacted,” said Davis. “This funding will allow LaGrange to undergo repairs necessary to meet the demands of increased barge traffic along the Illinois River. When this administration and Congress made a promise to make fixing our crumbling infrastructure a priority, this investment is a perfect example of following through on that promise. NESP is critical to upgrading our locks and dams and while I’m disappointed the last administration did not make it a priority, I am glad the Trump administration is getting the ball rolling and I will continue to put pressure on the Army Corps to begin construction on these important projects as soon as possible.”

“Moving forward with updating LaGrange is long-awaited great news for Illinois corn farmers who have been advocating for such improvements for decades”, said Aron Carlson President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  “Everyone knows LaGrange is a ticking timebomb for some type of failure.  More than a third of Illinois’ corn production is exported via the inland waterways, so to say any disruption or closure on the system is costly to producers is an understatement.”

“Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) applauds Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood for this monumental progress to realize NESP’s start,” said Mike Toohey, President & CEO, WCI. “This action provides an opportunity to take an updated, more comprehensive look at the vast benefits of the construction and utilization of more efficient locks at the seven key NESP lock sites, as well as smaller-scale infrastructure across the system, that will spur significant economic growth for the nation. WCI thanks Reps. Davis and LaHood for their tireless work in moving this program forward with this Administration.”  

Background on LaGrange:
The LaGrange Lock is the southernmost lock on the Illinois River and accommodates a heavy amount of barge traffic, that majority of which includes agricultural commodity movement. It was placed into service in 1939 and requires major rehabilitation of concrete, electrical, and mechanical systems. The lock last underwent rehabilitation work in 1988. More than 60 percent of all U.S. grain exports move through these locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, but unfortunately, they are not able to handle the longer barge tows used today.

Background on NESP:
NESP was authorized in 2007 to expand seven locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers from 600 feet to 1,200 feet, including Peoria and LaGrange, and fund important ecosystem restoration efforts. Unfortunately, the program was halted in 2010, despite strong bipartisan and bicameral support of NESP in Congress.