Statement of the
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) is the organization created in 1981 by the Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin to serve as a forum for coordinating the states’ river-related programs and policies and for collaborating with federal agencies on regional issues. As such, the UMRBA has a long history of involvement with issues related to commercial navigation and ecosystem restoration. In 1978, the UMRBA’s predecessor Commission was charged by Congress with evaluating the need for a second Lock at Lock and Dam 26 and associated environmental needs on the river. We are proud that the results of that study led Congress, in 1986, to authorize a second lock at Lock and Dam 26 and the Environmental Management Program to improve river habitat and monitor river health.
Now the UMRBA and its five member states are engaged in planning for the next generation of river management. The basin states’ natural resource, transportation, and economic development agencies have been working closely with the Corps of Engineers on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway Navigation Feasibility Study from its inception. Since being restructured in 2001, the study has taken on renewed and expanded significance. The results of this landmark study will lay the foundation for restoring the river’s economic and ecological vitality for decades to come.
As the study nears completion, the UMRBA urges Congress to act expeditiously to authorize both navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System. In particular, the UMRBA supports the following principles as the basis for the authorization:
Sustainability: The goal of the navigation feasibility study is “to seek long-term sustainability of the economic uses and ecological integrity of the Upper Mississippi River System.” Yet the navigation system is antiquated and the ecosystem is becoming increasingly degraded. Thus, to achieve long term sustainability, the efficiency of the commercial navigation system must be improved to ensure that it continues to offer a safe and reliable means for transporting the Midwest’s agricultural products to international markets. This would include a combination of mooring facilities, switchboats, seven new locks, and potentially, five lock extensions. In addition, the degradation of the river ecosystem must be reversed and actions taken to restore and sustain the river’s ecological functions for future generations. This would include island building, fish passage at dams, floodplain restoration, water level management, back and side channel restoration, wing dam and dike alterations, island and shoreline protection, improvements to topographic diversity, and switching to dam point control.
Balance: Congress recognized the dual nature of the Upper Mississippi River System when, in 1986, it declared the river to be both “a nationally significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system,” and mandated that “the system shall be administered and regulated in recognition of its several purposes.”* Likewise, the basin states have a long-standing and strong commitment to balanced management of the river, as articulated in a 1997 Joint Governors’ Proclamation promoting “the pursuit of unified economic and environmental policies” for managing the Upper Mississippi River. Congress now has the opportunity to make this balance a reality, by providing a dual-purpose authority for future navigation and ecosystem improvements on the Upper Mississippi River. UMRBA supports authorization of such an integrated authority, which would allow the river to be managed for multiple-purposes as a single project.
Adaptive Management: Achieving long-term sustainability of the Upper Mississippi River System will require adaptive management of both navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration. One of the foundations of adaptive management is monitoring the results of management actions. Therefore, a portion of the dual authority must be directed to support monitoring, modeling, and assessment of changing economic conditions and ecological processes. The adaptive management approach also suggests that the authorization should be structured in such a way that the long-term (50-year) framework is implemented in phases, which can accommodate dynamic natural and economic conditions, risk, uncertainty, and future advances in engineering and technology.
Cost Sharing: Both the navigation improvements and portions of the ecosystem restoration plan will be cost shared. Consistent with existing law, half of the costs of navigation improvements on the river system will be borne by the commercial navigation industry, which contributes approximately $100 million annually to support inland navigation projects. Ecosystem restoration of the river will also be cost shared, in part, with nonfederal sponsors. However, in authorizing future ecosystem restoration for the Upper Mississippi River System, it is critical that the Federal government’s long-standing and unique interest in this river system be recognized. In particular, the river is a federally-impounded and managed system, the character of which has largely been shaped by federal actions to create and sustain a nationally significant commercial navigation system. In addition, this interstate river is home to a number of federally recognized and protected species and the site of roughly 280,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuges. Given these unique circumstances, the basin states support an approach to cost sharing of ecosystem restoration on the Upper Mississippi River that would provide 100 percent federal funding for the following: modifications to the structures and operations of existing projects, measures on Corps Project Lands, measures on lands in the National Refuge System, and measures in the main channel or directly connected backwater areas below the ordinary high water mark. Measures on other public or privately owned lands would be cost shared 65 percent federal/35 percent nonfederal.
Collaboration: Any new multi-purpose authority for managing the Upper Mississippi River must build upon the strong heritage of interagency collaboration this region has worked hard to create and sustain over the past three decades. The Corps of Engineers should be commended for the open and collaborative planning process it has used to conduct the restructured navigation feasibility study. It will be equally important that the Corps be authorized to implement the resulting plan in coordination with the basin states and other federal agencies having river-related responsibilities.
The states of the Upper Mississippi River Basin, working through the UMRBA, are eager to assist this committee as you consider the forthcoming recommendations of the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation Study and seek to formulate a Water Resources Development Act for 2004.
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* Section 1103(a)(2) of P.L. 99-662, the Water Resources Development Act of 1986.