WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.) led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging the administration to include sufficient funding in its FY 2019 budget request to continue preconstruction engineering and design for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). In addition, the senators requested that the administration include that funding in the Army Corps of Engineers’ 2018 Work Plan, which would allow construction to begin immediately.
“In 2007, Congress recognized the national significance of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) and authorized NESP to ensure that the nation continues to benefit from this vital resource,” the senators wrote. “Further investment in NESP would strengthen infrastructure and navigation for the entire river and recognize the significance of the UMRS ecosystem to surrounding communities and wildlife. With appropriate funding, many NESP projects could be ready for construction within a year, immediately improving the economy and environment, and affirm the importance of the program.”
NESP is a multi-purpose program, which was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, to upgrade critical Mississippi River system navigation lock and dam infrastructure. The federal program also addresses river ecosystem restoration in an integrated approach.
The senators continued, “With the expansion of world food and energy needs, the Mississippi River is poised to be more important than ever. The river already moves large volumes of agricultural and energy products between U.S. markets and ports, and serves as the country’s busiest waterway. However, the overwhelming majority of UMRS infrastructure was constructed in the 1930s and has exceeded its design life by decades, causing closure and limiting overall capacity. Improvements are necessary.”
In addition to Blunt and Baldwin, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (La.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Kennedy (La.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).
Read the full text of the letter here.