The mighty Mississippi was the talk of the town today.
A meeting called by Governor Branstad himself, addressed what folks in the Quad Cities and all along the river, can expect in the future.
Governor Branstad put a lot of emphasis on the Mississippi not just as a part of our daily lives, but as a crucial part of international trade now, and especially in the coming years.
Discussion focused on two major topics.
First, taking care of the 37 aging lock and dam systems along the upper Mississippi.
Most were built in the 1930s and 40s, and only meant to last about 50 years.
"There needs to be repair and maintenance, but there also needs to be a recognition that they're becoming obsolete and need to be replaced, in many instances," said Governor Terry Branstad.
The other big topic today: the Mississippi's role in international trade.
"The potential in the future is, it's going to continue to grow," said Governor Branstad.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said right now, only about 25% of Iowa's exported grain is transported through the Mississippi and it's not the cheapest route.
So, the other 75% leaves Iowa through rail and trucks.
But in just a couple years, a major lock expansion all the way down on the Panama Canal could change that.
"In 2015 the new Panama Canal locks open, it'll be less expensive for most of Iowa to ship grain down the Mississippi River and through the Panama Canal to China," said Gary Meden of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
That could double grain exports flowing down the Mississippi.
That's why it's crucial the river's kept up to date.
"The most important, immediate need is additional operations and maintenance funding to make the river system and navigation system reliable," said Meden.
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