The Flood of 2019 is still painfully fresh in the minds of anyone who lives along the river. Many are still trying to recover, while others have left for good. To this day, farmers continue waiting for levee repairs to be completed, with fingers crossed that they are able to produce a crop this year.
I want to ensure Congress does what it can to help. Every two years, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure takes up the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, which encompasses anything that has to do with fixing and improving the infrastructure of our nation’s waterways. This year, much of my focus in helping to write the bill has been on increasing flood control, resiliency and recovery while maintaining a healthy navigation system on our rivers.
North Missouri communities have been subjected to repeated flooding. Each time, the Army Corps of Engineers provides flood-fighting assistance, which costs money and is many times little more than a Band-Aid. We must give our communities better tools to prevent future flooding so every time the water rises, it doesn’t become an overwhelming emergency. This legislation will do just that by giving the Corps the ability to plan for, design and construct projects in these repeatedly flooded communities.
Our rural communities bore the brunt of the Flood of 2019. WRDA 2020 directs the Corps to prioritize these rural communities when providing advice and assistance on flood risk resiliency.
Finally, if we are going to reduce these flood events, we must have an effective plan in place for flood control. The governors of all five states in the Lower Missouri River Basin, as well as Gov. Mike Parson’s Flood Recovery Working Group, have all pushed for the development of a plan. I made sure that WRDA takes the planning process that is already underway and further expands the scope, in order to get a full picture of what specific solutions are needed so the Missouri River never sees flooding like 2019 again.
This water resources bill isn’t solely about flooding, though. Navigation has always been a critical use of the river.
Our shippers recognize the importance of maintaining the river, including our locks and dams on the Mississippi River on the east side of my district. In fact, they tax themselves on barge fuel, with the money going to the Inland Waterway Trust Fund specifically to fund maintenance of the waterways system. WRDA makes an important change that raises the federal share of funding that will help our crumbling locks and dams receive repairs and upgrades.
On the Missouri River, structures known as Interception Rearing Complexes have been constructed or proposed in order to help the spawning of the pallid sturgeon. We still have no idea if they work, but we do know that they create major problems in the river for those trying to move a barge. Just as with flood control, people and property must always come first. I was able to get these structures put on hold in WRDA 2016 and we were able to do it again this year.
We’ve faced many river challenges in Missouri over the years, and especially last year. WRDA 2020 couldn’t come at a better time. Ensuring that our inland waterways are fully functioning, while not hurting the people and property along them, is critical to the continued success of Missouri and our nation.