To The Herald-Whig:
Twenty-five years ago the "Great Flood of 1993" destroyed property, livelihoods and lives.
Rising floodwaters on the Mississippi River inundated communities and farmland as levee after levee failed. More than 1,000 levees failed. Navigation on the river came to a standstill. The economic and emotional toll was devastating.
Every two years, Congress takes up legislation dealing with policies that affect river infrastructure. The Water Resources Development Act authorizes what projects the Army Corps of Engineers can work on.
As a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I get the opportunity to help craft the WRDA bill that affects both the Mississippi, and the Missouri.
The 6th District is home to the most levee miles in the country. Flood control is always my first priority.
In the version of WRDA passed in 2016, I included a study for a new comprehensive flood control plan across the entire Upper Mississippi River basin. However, we have to make sure that folks along the river can make important levee improvements to prevent flooding in the future.
There are measures in place designed to enable local authorities to pursue upgrading their flood control infrastructure. Known as the "408 permit," the process has become more stringent and is now doing more harm than good. President Trump has called for streamlined permitting for infrastructure projects, and I will fight to fix the 408 permitting process in WRDA 2018.
For too many years, the Corps has prioritized fish and birds over people and property, specifically on the Missouri River. Not only has it had no measurable effect on the wildlife it aimed to help, its policies actually led to more flooding. This bill makes it clear that people and property are more important than fish and birds.
Many other river initiatives are included in WRDA. Critical infrastructure such as locks, dams and ports all contribute to a thriving economy. I saw this firsthand when I toured the Lewis County Port and Lock and Dam 20 in Canton last fall. We'll continue to place a strong emphasis on these important facilities in WRDA 2018.
Both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are tremendous assets that can be utilized to our benefit; how we manage them is critical to the future of our economy.
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves