Committee Leaders Kick Off Bipartisan Development of WRDA 2020
From the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Press Release:
Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Bruce Westerman (R-AR) sent a letter to their colleagues urging them to finalize their priorities for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. The letter also announced the Committee will hold a Member Day hearing on WRDA requests on February 27, 2020.
WRDA is legislation that is essential to the everyday lives of Americans and our economy. Nearly 80 percent of traded goods move through our Nation’s ports, harbors, and inland waterways. Projects for flood damage reduction help protect both our rural and urban communities, thus benefiting millions of Americans. And, ecosystem restoration projects restore and maintain our vital natural resources. This important work, carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is made possible through the enactment of WRDA.
Congress successfully enacted three consecutive WRDAs in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
For more information on WRDA 2020 click here.
IRPT's Request for WRDA 2020 Consideration
Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Association, Inc. (IRPT) writes to voice stronger support of the inland waterways and the economic development along those inland waterways, i.e. the commercially navigable rivers, that could not be created by any other means than via our ports and terminals along said waterways. IRPT kindly requests that the items below be considered in the upcoming Water Resources Development Act of 2020.
The increase in frequency and duration of floods and other natural disasters along the inland river system continue to play havoc on the many river-adjacent communities, public ports and private terminals, barge lines and boat companies that work on the river every day. Such communities and transload facilities that carry the nation’s freight need resilience. Resilience as it pertains to the inland river system, means the ability to properly plan for, rapidly respond to and recover from such events.
It is for the desperate need that in order to be resilient, IRPT kindly request that Congress consider:
Priority Request #1: Coordination of federal and state agency response.
Priority Request #2: Expedite permit process to rebuild and protect.
Priority Request #3: Move U.S. Army Corps Kansas City District to the Mississippi Valley Division.
Priority Request #4: Reinstatement of the Missouri River Commission.
We are indeed grateful for all that you have done and continue to do to support our nation’s inland and coastal waterways: returning to a two-year cycle of enacting Waterways Resources and Development Acts with strong bipartisan support for the maintenance and improvement of the inland waterway’s infrastructure. IRPT believes that Congress has the ability to direct the activities of the federal agencies involved to ensure the inland river system is more resilient to these events.
Coordination of federal and state agency response
To strengthen the resilience of the United States, systematic preparation, response and recovery to disasters, whether man-made or natural is needed. A coordinated and collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies will support the integration of guidance, programs and resources for a whole national approach.
Currently when natural disasters occur, local communities often times struggle to identify who to engage at the Federal level for guidance and resources. Following the devastating flood events in 2019 on three river systems, it appears that perhaps a larger discussion would be helpful in the ability to prepare, respond and recover in the future.
With so many agencies on the Federal, State and Local levels, it is often difficult to identify who to call in an immediate time of need. An example of the many agencies individually responding to a disaster, such as a major flood include:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- State Emergency Management Agencies
- S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) District and Division
- S. Coast Guard (USCG)
- Maritime Administration (MARAD)
- Economic Development Agency (EDA)
Each of the agencies listed above, in addition to others not listed, have individual resilience plans, however, no coordinated efforts currently exist. IRPT kindly requests a disaster task force be created through the Water Resources development Act of 2020 to which the coordination begins on the Federal level and the task force identify the State and Local levels of agency collaboration before a disaster strike. To be resilient, our communities need:
- Overarching strategy and planning guidance/directive;
- Command direction and critical information avenues;
- Probable course of action with anticipation of possible hindrances;
- Resources and eligibility requirements.
Expedite permit process to rebuild and protect:
With an increase in frequency and duration of devastating events to America’s inland rivers, such as floods and hurricane’s, it is important to rebuild in order protect. The current leadership under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has established a process that allows each U.S. Army Corps district to make recovery decisions on a per district basis. IRPT applauds the U.S. Army Corps for this thoughtful approach to allow greater decisions to be made on that level.
It is for that important discretion that IRPT kindly asks Congress to consider that same approach as new leadership may enter into the national level of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while still considering all benefits to the Nation. The U.S. Inland River transportation system makes up one large system and even though management of those rivers are divided into districts, operation and maintenance of each of those rivers should still be to the benefit on the nation.
To re-state, strengthening the resilience of the United States, systematic preparation, response and recovery to disasters, whether man-made or natural is needed. A coordinated and collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies will support the integration of guidance, programs and resources for a whole national approach.
Move U.S. Army Corps Kansas City District to the Mississippi Valley Division:
Currently, the Missouri River lies within two Army Corps Districts, the Omaha and Kansas City Districts. The two Districts are overseen by the Northwestern Division of the Army Corps. Commercial navigation on the Missouri River is most prominent in the Kansas City Army Corps District from Sioux City to the mouth of the river at St. Louis. The St. Louis District is overseen by the Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps.
Doing business within and between Army Corps Divisions is challenging, and IRPT kindly requests the Kansas City District of the Army Corps of Engineers be moved and overseen by the Mississippi Valley Division instead of the Northwestern Division. Ports and terminals importing and exporting cargo on the Missouri River utilize the nation’s critical artery of the Mississippi River. Stakeholders on the Missouri River enjoy a river operated and maintained by the Northwestern Division of the Army Corps, and transport their goods to and from the Mississippi Valley Division. As you can imagine, there is no opportunity to transport to and from the Northwestern Division’s operated rivers (i.e. Snake, Columbia, etc.).
Reinstatement of the Missouri River Commission
Congress created the Missouri River Commission in approximately 1884 to accomplish continuous and progressive development of the river by maintaining a channel and depth of water sufficient for commerce. It was later abolished in 1902. Since the abolishment and later developments of the Flood Control Act and the Endangered Species Act, navigation and flood control appear to be losing interests in the operation and maintenance of the Missouri River’s banks stabilization and channel improvements. IRPT kindly requests Congress re-establish the Missouri River Commission in an effort to protect navigation and flood control on the Missouri River.
As the Mississippi River Commission is charged to oversee the Mississippi River and Tributaries project, IRPT believes that due to later developments in the management of the Missouri River, the Missouri River Commission should be re-instated.
As described on the U.S. Army Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division’s website, “the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) was established by an Act of Congress on June 28, 1879. Congress charged the MRC with the mission to develop plans to improve the condition of the Mississippi River, foster navigation, promote commerce, and prevent destructive floods—perhaps the most difficult and complex engineering problem ever undertaken by the federal government up to that time.
The intent behind the mission of the MRC today is the same as the mission placed on the commission upon its creation—to lead sustainable management and development of water related resources for the nation’s benefit and the people’s well-being.”
In an effort to protect economic development, interstate commerce and protect communities while still protecting endangered species, a more comprehensive federal agency such as the Missouri River Commission is needed.
Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals, Inc., is a non-profit trade association with nearly 300 members nationwide. IRPT advocates for the inland waterways, industries and companies that serve and utilize our inland rivers, ports and terminals. IRPT and its Members welcome Congressional partnership and pledges to offer its support, organizational resources, and network to aid Congress in achieving long-term sustainability and resilience.