Our aging lock and dams

It is obvious that Washington, D.C., and the cities and states that surround the waterways are not prepared for what lies ahead. Our roads, bridges and locks and dams are not in good shape.

What is our transportation system going to look like in a few years? Half of the Interstate Highway system was open by the end of 1966. (It got its start when President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.) Many of the nation’s bridges were built in the 19th century. 

The final transportation link that is also is in trouble and in need of an update is our lock-and-dam system. Many of them are 50, 60, 70, or even 80 years old. The useful life expectancy of lock and dams is 40 to 50 years and most are much older and in need of repair.

This is not the only big issue facing the waterways. The biggest one on the Great Lakes is dredging. Many of the ports along the Great Lakes need dredging badly. Many marinas are not able to open for business because there is not enough water for pleasure vessels to get into their slips. With shallow water, many of the breakwater dikes are eroding away. What can be done to reverse this problem? You got it, money.

However, with the severe budget issues at the federal, state and local levels, don’t expect a big capital infusion soon. So what are we going to do? Is the U.S. headed down the same path that Greece is taking? I hope not, but I cannot say for sure that we are not.

This blog should get your attention, because it will not take long for things to come to a screeching halt. I do not believe this is a political issue. This is a “no money and no foresight” issue. This is something that we could see coming down the road.

I have been watching this develop for years. We need a lot of people to begin asking what we are going to do to solve it. Maybe then we will see some improvement. The important thing is that the sky is not falling, but it appears to be getting closer and closer.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or abernstein@bbriverboats.com.

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