UMRBA Reviews its 2021 Accomplishments

Kudos to our partners and participants (state and federal agencies, individual and organizational stakeholders) and our remarkably productive staff for another great year.  This “year-in-review” will highlight some of the substantial progress we made in 2021 and present a look forward to the work of 2022.

In 2021, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) celebrated 40 years of success.  The Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin formed UMRBA to foster and facilitate interstate water resource planning and cooperative action.  Working together through the Association, the five state governments have advanced important joint priorities for the Upper Mississippi River System and have maintained an expectation of multi-purpose management for the river.  It has been a remarkable forty-year journey.

This past year, 2021, has underscored the importance and quality of the Association’s work.  Despite the challenges posed by the covid pandemic, UMRBA continued to move state priorities forward in 2021 by advocating on behalf of the five states, serving as a catalyst and convener, communicating about the river resources and ongoing investments, and developing information and tools to support decision making.  UMRBA has maintained the Upper Mississippi River System’s national reputation and recognition as a priority resource.

Notable 2021 highlights:

  • UMRBA’s Water Quality Executive Committee developed a draft 10-year water quality program plan, which offers specific needs and priorities for advancing interstate water quality management. 
  • UMRBA and its partners implemented an important water quality project known as “Monitoring for the Clean Water Act Reaches 8-9 Pilot of the Interstate Water Quality Monitoring Plan.” 
  • UMRBA published a final draft Keys to the River Report, which provides a vision for long term planning and identifies a suite of tools for enhancing resilience to floods, droughts, and sediment.  This report was the result of three years of active collaboration among UMRBA partners and participants.
  • UMRBA, in partnership with USACE, convened interdisciplinary experts and decision makers to reach consensus on an approach forward for implementing water level management.  Products included a peer-reviewed synopsis of the federal and state agencies’ agreement and an update to the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program assessment of ecological benefits from managing water levels at various low-water depths during the growing season. 
  • The UMRBA Spills Group developed a draft five-year strategic plan, which establishes priorities for guiding the members’ collaborative work towards advancing the group’s mission: to enhance capabilities of all stakeholders tasked with managing incidents impacting the Upper Mississippi River and immediate tributaries through support of integrated planning, coordination, preparedness, and spill response.
  • UMRBA developed a navigation assets inventory for the Upper Mississippi River System.  It can be viewed at  It is an interactive map that features ports, terminals, boat accesses, and other navigation-related information.  It allows users to search for intermodal access with a certain dock type or storage capacity.
  • UMRBA developed a suite of out-of-basin water diversion scenario planning exercises to better understand 1) how their unique approaches and authorities to regulating water use may influence implementation of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Charter and 2) evaluate important contextual questions around the Charter’s provisions.
  • UMRBA redesigned its website to be more effective in highlighting the Association’s positions and publications and ongoing work (see

A Look Ahead to 2022:

The future is full of promise and challenge.  There is a greater need than ever for strong collaboration within a framework of partnership to maintain integrated, multipurpose management of the Upper Mississippi River System.  We will need your continued engagement to be successful.

Multi-purpose management must be informed by solid ecological, economic, engineering, and social science.  It must be founded on the commitment to include all the diverse voices within the Upper Mississippi River System in planning and implementing action.

Our collaboration with you in 2022 will include ensuring the states’ effective involvement in Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) program and Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) and advancing the 10-year water quality program plan, the five-year UMR spills plan, and the resilience planning actions.  It also will include leveraging capacity and improving understanding among the diversity of people and organizations within the Upper Mississippi River floodplain and watershed.

In closing, let me once again offer my thanks and congratulations to our state and federal agency partners, our individual and organizational stakeholder participants, and our Association staff members for another great year.  Also, a special word of thanks to Association Board Members, whose dedication and support are crucial to our success.

UMRBA looks forward to continuing to work on behalf of our five member states and the river.