Growing up in Tarkio, Missouri, several miles down the road from the Missouri River, I learned firsthand the power of the river and what can happen when our priorities aren’t in line.
It’s not just the Missouri River though. Folks across North Missouri, who live along the Mississippi and countless smaller rivers, have spent decades working to bring certainty and safety to the families who live and work along our waterways. In many ways, we did just that, but with change, came complacency, a false sense of security, and a whole new list of “priorities” that pushed the most important priorities, flood control and navigation, down the list.
When environmental and recreational concerns skyrocketed up the list of priorities in the eyes of the powers that be, millions were dumped into these pet projects while levee repairs, upgrades, and improvements to the navigation channel were neglected. This realignment of priorities had real world impacts on people, as we saw all too clearly with record flooding in the spring, summer, and into the fall of 2019. This wasn’t just a one-year problem though. This has been going on for decades, with increasing frequency in recent years.
Fixing this problem was one of the main reasons I sought to join the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the first place. While it’s easy for problems like this to get lost in the noise of Washington, it’s always been number one on my agenda. We’ve gotten countless smaller wins in the past, but the passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA), which I helped write, is a great step towards getting our priorities back in line.
WRDA makes it a priority to secure, upgrade and improve our non-federal levees. After all, these levees protect countless small towns, and every levee is important to our flood control efforts because it only takes one weak link for things to turn south in a hurry. It will help upgrade our locks and dams on the Mississippi River that are so critical to shipping our products across the country. It builds upon existing efforts to revamp our flood control plans on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and speeds up the repair of federal levees damaged by the Flood of 2019. For those areas that have seen repetitive flooding, and we know there are many, there will be new opportunities to upgrade infrastructure to reduce the risk of future flooding.
This bill doesn’t fix everything, but WRDA 2020 does place a focus on improving flood control and navigation, which is critical. People’s lives and livelihoods are the top priority in my book. Our laws, regulations, and the management of our rivers should reflect that.