Corn Belt Ports See Historic Increases in Ecosystem Restoration Funding and Projects

The Corn Belt Ports are the federally recognized Ports in the Heart of the Corn Belt above Locks and Dam 26 in the Upper Mississippi River System (The Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway). More simply put, they are the ports within the Corn Belt's Lock and Dam System.

The Corn Belt Ports consist of the following four regional ports:
1) The Mid-America Port Commission (MAPC) (IL, MO & IA);
2) The Upper Mississippi River Ports (UMRP) (IL & IA);
3) The Illinois Waterway (ILWW) Ports; and
4) The Northern Grain Belt Ports (NGBP) (WI & MN).

The primary purpose of the Corn Belt Ports is to help increase federal, state, non-profit organization, and business investment in the region. Since federal recognition of the first Corn Belt Ports in 2020, the Congressional funding authorization in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) for the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program has nearly tripled from $33 million to now $90 million over a 36-month period— its biggest jump ever in authorized funding levels.

The UMRR Program was the first environmental restoration and monitoring program on a large river system in the United States. The UMRR is one of the important efforts committed to ensuring the viability and vitality of the Upper Mississippi River System's (UMRS) diverse and significant fish and wildlife resources.

Congress originally authorized the UMRR Program in Section 1103 of the 1986 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) at $18 million per year. In the 1999 WRDA, Congress increased the annual authorization to $33 million and it remained at that level for two decades. The 2020 WRDA increased the authorized program funding from $33 million to a combined $55 million annually.

The FY 2023 Annual Federal Appropriations for the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program is now at an all-time, historic high of $55 million. However, with the most recent Dec 2022 WRDA funding authorization of $90 million, we could see a further increase in the FY 2024 Annual Appropriations from Congress for the UMRR Program. More simply put, the UMRR program has grown to $55 million in the FY 2023 appropriations bill, and now also has Congressional authorization to potentially increase that further to $90 million in future annual appropriations.

List of future planned UMRR projects in the Corn Belt Ports region (see UMRR Fact Sheet for details):

Mid America Port Commission (IL, MO, IA) (Total Multi-Year Cost $95,379,680)
• Ted Shanks, Pool 24
• Clarence Cannon, Pool 25
• Gilead Slough, Pool 25
• Red's Landing Wetlands, Pool 25
• Yorkinut Slough, IL, Pool 26

Upper Mississippi River Ports (IL & IA) (Total Multi-Year Cost $192,439, 822)
• Lower Pool 10 Island and Backwater Complex
• Pool 12 Overwintering
• Green Island, IA, Pool 13
• Lower Pool 13
• Beaver Island, Pool 14
• Steamboat Island, Pool 14
• Huron Island, Pool 18
• Keithsburg Division, Pool 18

Illinois Waterway Ports
• No Specific Future Projects Identified at Present Northern Grain Belt Ports (WI & MN) (Total Multi-Year Cost $84,638,000)
• Lower Pool 4, Big Lake
• Robinson Lake, MN, Pool 4
• Conway Lake, Pool 9
• Harpers Slough, Pool 9
• Reno Bottoms, Pool 9
• McGregor Lake, Pool 10

The Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) is a nationally significant ecosystem as designated by the U.S. Congress in 1986. It provides habitat to 25% of native fish species and supports more than 300 bird species. Sustainability is the foundation of the Corn Belt Ports. The healthier the river’s ecosystem, it will be able to better support multiple uses of the Mississippi River including the transportation of more than 60% of U.S. corn and soybean exports. We are glad to see the significant increase in UMRR funding.

It is a Corn Belt Ports priority to ensure that all port regions are taking advantage of the UMRR Program. The UMRR Program is separate and distinct from the recently started Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), which will also address aquatic ecosystem restoration requirements in the Corn Belt Ports region.

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