U.S. Senator Roy Blunt toured Northeast Missouri Tuesday, starting off at Lock and Dam 20 near Canton, where he spoke about his goal for infrastructure improvement.
Lewis county officials at the meeting said moving product through the Lock and Dam is a lengthy process that they’ve wanted to improve for a long time.
“Most of the barge tows that run the upper Mississippi are 1,200 foot long, we have a lock chamber that’s only 600,” said Ralph Martin, Executive Director of the Industrial Development and Port Authority for Lewis County.
Marin said barges have to be broken down, moved through, and then re-assembled to move down the Mississippi, and when there’s only one lock, everything depends on it working right.
“It takes about two-and-a-half hours to break that barge down and move it through a piece at a time,” said Martin.
Senator Blunt said improving infrastructure at locks and dams could lead to economic growth state-wide
“World food need doubles by 2060, we think world food demand doubles quicker than that, no one is in a better position than we are to take advantage of that, but the river has to be a critical element of that,” said Senator Blunt giving the reason why he’s aiming to find a way to modernize the lock and dam, originally made in 1937.
“Where you pull your barge up to the lock, the lock is big enough for your barge, and you move on down the river,” said Blunt describing how easy it is with a larger lock.
For Martin, he said he’s glad Senator Blunt understands the need for change, and hopes an infrastructure bill backed by the trump administration could make it happen.
“We need to make that a more reliable system so we can get more product on the river,” said Martin, adding that they’ve had several different concepts for where a new larger lock would go.
Some of those designs would use the current lock as a backup.
Senator Blunt made several stops around Northeast Missouri after leaving Canton on Tuesday, including a stop in Kahoka to talk about rural broadband expansion, which he said is a critical issue for agriculture, education, and for keeping people in rural Missouri.