Sunday, Mar 9, 2014
Enyart Tours Olmsted Locks and Dam
PULASKI COUNTY -- The Olmsted Locks and Dam was the focus of national criticism earlier this year. That's when the spending limit was raised again, putting the projected cost at nearly $3 billion.
The project was launched in 1988. Construction was supposed to take seven years to complete.
Representative Bill Enyart toured the site on Wednesday morning. He believes the project is expensive but will be well worth it when it opens. It's also a crucial piece of the southern Illinois economy.
The small tour was a glimpse into massive venture.
"It's currently the largest public works project in the nation," said Enyart.
The visit gave Enyart the chance to see first hand the Olmsted Locks and Dam. He spoke with staff from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Olmsted Division Chief Michael Braden believes the 2013 building season has been smooth.
"We had three shells we planned to set this season, and all three have set," said Braden.
Braden is hopeful that the good conditions now could help them complete more than they expected.
"We have two more shells that we call stretch goals that we originally planned to place next season," said Braden. "But if the river cooperates, their position is going to be set this year as well."
It's a far different place than Braden was preparing for a few months ago. The project was nearing its spending limit of $1.7 Billion dollars and planning to slow construction.
However, that spending limit was raised to $2.9 billion as part of the deal to end the government shutdown.
"It avoided significant delays and cost increases to the project," said Braden.
The move became the center of a national controversy, although Enyart feels the spending will be a smart decision.
"The benefit to the economy once this is completed is about $650 million a year," said Enyart. "So that's a payback period of five years."
The date for when the dam will open to barge traffic is in 2020.
Enyart feels the project has benefits, like employing local people. It will also take the place of two Ohio River dams that are falling apart. Olmsted crosses one of the busiest stretches of inland waterway.
"Much of the grain, the fertilizer, the coal that comes out of southern Illinois comes up and down this river system," said Enyart. "It's vital to our economy."
The corps says right now barges can wait up to 48 hours to get through the old lock and dam system. Olmsted is designed to be bigger and faster. It's project to cut that waiting time to 4 hours.
Wind: 7 MPH
Humidity: 81 %