Senators Push for Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program

Photo: Island L6 by Scott Baker/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt, Dick Durbin, Chuck Grassley and Tammy Baldwin, along with U.S. Representatives Jason Smith and Cheri Bustos, 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which was authorized in Title VIII of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, would modernize and expand seven outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.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 can move forward with preconstruction engineering and design for the projects, said the officials.

“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address both navigation and ecosystem restoration in an integrated approach that will result in the expansion of seven outdated locks along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.”

“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.”