Iowans will be given the chance to look over and sound off about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans for improving the upper Mississippi River. Two public hearings will be held in Iowa over the next several days, according to Scott Whitney, a project manager for the Corps’ Rock Island (Illinois) District.This will be the public’s first opportunity to see the full breadth of alternatives that have been developed for the revised upper Mississippi River study, which now includes a dual purpose for navigation efficiency and ecosystem sustainability. Whitney says the Corps is seeking input at a critical decision point in the very complex study. Whitney says the public will see six alternative plans for navigation efficiency and six others for ecosystem restoration and sustainability. One big problem with the river now, he says, is the lock and dam system. It was designed and built in the 1930s when the longest barges were only 600-feet long. Based on that, most of the locks were only built to hold 600-foot crafts. Now, Whitney says most barges are 12-hundred feet in length. He says barges have to be split in half now and it often takes up to three hours to let the barge through, causing big backups. He says options include charging a fee for using the locks, something currently prohibited, or scheduling barges ahead of time. Public hearings are scheduled on the proposed plans for Thursday at the Davenport Holiday Inn and next Thursday (Oct. 30) at Dubuque’s Holiday Inn-Five Flags. Each session includes an open house from 3-5, Corps presentations starting at 6:30, Q-and-A starting at 7:15 and with public comments being taken starting at 8 P.M.