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Decades Old River Travel Threatened By Lack of Funding

WGIL Newsroom . Local News 184

Daily the Illinois River is flooded with barges transporting bulk commodities up and down the river.

Crews transport coal, petroleum and even chemicals to places like St. Louis and New Orleans carefully maneuvering through the tight locks and dams.

What’s known as one of the safest ways to move commodities around the country is also one of the most under funded, leaving the Army Corp of Engineers struggling to make needed repairs on the river.

WaterWays Council’s Vice President for the Midwest Paul Rohde tells WGIL the river system is a great asset, but because of its complexity funding becomes more and more complicated.

“There are so many advantages to it, but we also have so many challenges with the fund and you’ve seen that only increase as the Corp of Engineers has been asked to do more things with fewer resources,” says Rohde. “The pie is not getting any bigger and we are having more pieces of that pie being sliced.”

Rhode says there’s atrust fund set up to help pay for half of all capital improvements.

He says that money comes from a diesel tax of 20 cents per gallon, however Rhode says that money’s really meant as a reserve and the reduction in federal funding has cased that fund to shrink drastically.