Restoring America's River

August  13, 2013

A coalition is calling on Congress to help restore the Mississippi River. The Nicollet Island Coalition Tuesday released a report with recommendations to cut funding for the lock and dam system along the Upper Mississippi River, and spend more on restoring the ecosystem. 

The report's author, Olivia Dorothy from the Izaak Walton League, says there are several things that must be done to improve the river's health, and boost its economic benefits.   

"Our recommendation ask Congress to start making smarter infrastructure investments that bring navigation subsidies in line with other transportation sectors,' said Dorothy. "And focus spending on maintenance, small scale, and non-structural projects."

She also recommends investing tax dollars in ecosystem restoration instead of construction.

Josh Sewell from Taxpayers for Common Sense, says shippers and barge companies only contribute 10 percent of the 800 million dollar cost of operating the lock and dam system, with the rest paid for with government subsidies. Meanwhile, he says, traffic along the Mississippi River has decreased over the years.

"Federal spending, including on transportation infrastructure, must provide a better bang for the buck," said Sewell. "Especially in a post-sequestration, resource-constrained environment. An environment in which we now find ourselves. We absolutely cannot afford to continue pouring federal tax dollars into poorly performing projects, or those projects that just aren't as critical as other projects."

The Nicollet Island Coalition lastly recommends an overhaul of the Corps of Engineers' planning process.

This report coincides with the Water Resources Development Act being debated in Congress. The Senate has passed one version already, and the House is expected to discuss its version in the fall.

The Coalition is made up of several conservation and taxpayer organizations including the Sierra Club and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.