WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Jason Smith of Missouri, led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Senate and House appropriators urging the inclusion of funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program (NESP) in the Fiscal Year 2020 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills. NESP, which was authorized in Title VIII of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, would modernize and expand seven outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Funding is needed so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) can move forward with preconstruction engineering and design (PED) for the projects.

 

“Our nation’s water infrastructure plays a critical role in maintaining our competitiveness in the global economy by ensuring the safe and efficient movement of goods to market, but the current backlog of outstanding water infrastructure projects pending before the Corps is putting that competitiveness at risk,” the Members wrote. “NESP is an important, dual-purpose program that allows the Corps to address both navigation and ecosystem restoration in an integrated approach that will result in the expansion of seven outdated locks along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.”

 

Inland and intercoastal waterways and ports are vital to the U.S. economy. These waterways serve 38 states throughout the nation as shippers and consumers depend on the ability to move around 600 million tons of cargo valued at $232 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 one-quarter of farm cash receipts. In 2015, 73 percent of U.S. agricultural exports were carried on U.S. waterways, as well as 65 percent of imports.

 

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

April 4, 2019

 

Dear Chairs Alexander and Kaptur and Ranking Members Feinstein and Simpson:

 

As you prepare the Senate and House Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills, we respectfully request that you include report language that supports the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program (NESP) and urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to move forward with preconstruction engineering and design (PED) of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System projects authorized in Title VIII of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (PL 110-114).

 

Our nation’s water infrastructure plays a critical role in maintaining our competitiveness in the global economy by ensuring the safe and efficient movement of goods to market, but the current backlog of outstanding water infrastructure projects pending before the Corps is putting that competitiveness at risk.  Congress recognized the importance of modernizing our water infrastructure when it authorized NESP in 2007.  NESP is an important, dual-purpose program that allows the Corps to address both navigation and ecosystem restoration in an integrated approach that will result in the expansion of seven outdated locks along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.  Unfortunately, despite NESP’s importance to our inland waterways system, few steps have been taken by the Corps to implement NESP since 2012. 

 

To illustrate the broad bipartisan support in Congress for NESP and to urge the Corps to provide the funding needed to advance PED for the program, we request the inclusion of the following report language in the FY 2020 Energy and Water Appropriations bills:

 

The Committee recognizes the importance of advancing the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for the Upper Mississippi region and our nation’s economy.  As such, we urge the Corps to provide the appropriate preconstruction engineering and design (PED) funding needed to advance the projects authorized in Title VIII of the Water Resources and Development Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-114).  Congress has already appropriated more than $62 million in PED funding for this program, and the Committee recommends continued funding for PED this year in order for the program to receive new start construction funding as soon as such funding becomes available.

 

We urge full consideration of this critical language directing the Corps to move forward with PED for NESP.  Thank you for your time and consideration of this important request.

  

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