Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Durbin, Bipartisan Senators Urge Funding for River System Infrastructure

Nov 27, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa joined Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in sending a bipartisan letter urging the Army Corps of Engineers to provide sufficient funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for Fiscal Year 2019 while ensuring the timely completion of the project’s economic update funded by the Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan.

“The Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program will not only ensure that these ecosystems will continue to thrive, but will also reduce navigation hurdles, including lock closures, that plague our inland navigation system and cost billions in economic losses,” the senators wrote. “The Upper Mississippi River System’s 1930 navigation infrastructure has well exceeded its design life, and improvements to the system are urgently needed.”

NESP was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 and is a multi-purpose program aimed at upgrading critical Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) navigation lock and dam infrastructure and providing an integrated approach to addressing Mississippi River ecosystem restoration.

“The UMRS is vital to our economy, with more than 60 percent of our nation’s corn and soybeans exports traveling along the river system. It also plays a key role in transporting other commodities, moving 116 million tons of cargo annually,” the senators wrote. 

The letter was also signed by Sens Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Grassley, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and family farmer, joined a bipartisan letter earlier this year to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging the Administration to include funding in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget request to continue preconstruction engineering and design for NESP.

Inland and intercoastal waterways and ports are vital to the U.S. economy. These waterways serve 41 states throughout the nation as shippers and consumers depend on the ability to move around one billion tons of cargo valued at more than $380 billion annually. The United States is the world’s largest agricultural exporting country, selling one third of its product abroad. Agricultural exports account for about a quarter of farm cash receipts. In 2008, 79 percent of U.S. agricultural exports were carried on U.S. waterways.

Text of the letter is available here and below.

 

The Honorable R.D. James

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

Department of the Army

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310

Dear Secretary James,

We write to highlight our strong support for improving our nation’s water infrastructure by ensuring sufficient funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). NESP will improve navigation and provide important ecological restoration along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. We request that the Army Corps of Engineers fund preconstruction engineering and design (PED) for NESP in the Corps’ Fiscal year 2019 Work Plan while ensure the timely completion of the project’s economic update funded by the Fiscal year 2018 Work Plan.

Congress, understanding the importance of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS), committed to improving the river system’s navigation and ecosystems by authorizing NESP in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The UMRS is vital to our economy, with more than 60 percent of our nation’s corn and soybeans exports traveling along the river system. It also plays a key role in transporting other commodities, moving 116 million tons of cargo annually.

The UMRS is a nationally significant ecosystem, supporting 25 percent of North America’s fish species and almost 300 species of migratory birds. The river system has 16 national refuges, and attracts millions of recreational visitors each year. NESP will protect these ecosystems by restoring backwater complexes and naturalizing river flows, thus improving water quality and fish and wildlife habitat while supporting a vital recreational economy.

NESP will not only ensure that these ecosystems will continue to thrive, but will also reduce navigation hurdles, including lock closures, that plague our inland navigation system and cost billions in economic losses. UMRS’s 1930 navigation infrastructure has well exceeded its design life, and improvements to the system are urgently needed.

NESP, since its inception, has been a bipartisan effort that has received support from environmental, industry, and labor groups. Funding NESP is critical to our economy and environment. We urge you to direct the Corps to provide funding to complete PED for this critical program.

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