. - Western KY Congressman James Comer hosted a river industry event in Paducah with Southeast Missouri Congressman Jason Smith and Western TN Congressman David Kustoff for a panel discussion about the area's inland waterways with local businesses and industry leaders.
The three Congressmen were there to listen to the people and learn more from the industry leaders so they can better represent Congress to make sure there is adequate infrastructure for the inland waterways. Also, to better understand the economic impact that the waterways and industries have for Heartland area.
"We all have a common theme which is rivers," Smith said. "Whether it's the Mississippi in the Cape region or the Ohio, the Tennessee or the Illinois. All the different rivers that are affecting us, it's a economic viability that affects all of us. In Congress, you need to work together. It's much easier to be a voice of three than a voice of one when we are pushing issues that's affecting our region."
"We have some major pieces of legislation that are coming down before Congress very soon," Comer stated. "The infrastructure bill, the farm bill which obviously having viable inland waterways has a huge a huge impact on the price of grain up and down the river on each side."
Comer mentioned the effects on grain prices up river after a Kentucky lock and dam went down recently. This being one of many reasons he said why this meeting was important.
"It was down for three weeks and had a detrimental effect for the price of grain in that area," Comer said. "Farmers were having to transport on the roads to below the lock and dam that was broken to try to get their grain on a barge. That clogs up the highway system. We need to have a viable inland waterway system."
Comer added that the infrastructure are in a bad need of repair and that the inland waterways are a significant part of infrastructure in America.
Kustoff also said that we shouldn't wait and that the time is now to do something.
"The longer we defer this maintenance, the longer defer the expenditures, the more expensive it's going to become in the years to come," Kustoff said.
Smith also estimates that the transportation of products in inland waterways is 550 tons.
"That's huge." Smith added. "When you're looking at Southeast Missouri where I represent, all of our grains and products, that's where they go to the multiple ports along the Mississippi."
Smith also said the inland waterways are important for other areas as well.
"The inland waterways are so important but it's also from flood recovery and flooding," Smith said. "There's a lot of help that Kentucky Lake does in making sure in controlling the waterways of how it will crest in Cairo."
Overall, the Congressmen felt they learned a lot with the panel discussion and assure the people that they are in good hands.
"I think we have people in place that will ensure that the inland waterways and all stakeholders are well represented as we move forward," Comer said.