Weekly Columns

Did you know Arkansas has the third most miles of navigable waterways out of all 50 states?  These waterways – along with other rivers, lakes, and aquifers – are critical to job creation, farming, transportation, recreation, and economic development in the Natural State. 

In the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we are working on a new “Water Resources Development Act.”  This bipartisan legislation would improve our nation’s water resources policy to expand opportunity, promote commerce, and reduce flood risks. I am working to includes reforms that speed up project delivery and provide new ways to finance water projects. My goal is to protect taxpayers and improve our water resources. 

Our legislation improves financing options for groundwater supply projects. These projects will reduce stress on aquifers that provide drinking water to many Arkansas towns and irrigation water to our farm fields. These financing opportunities could reduce the long-term costs to taxpayers while ensuring a vital resource is available to farmers and families in the future. 

We must keep Arkansas farms and factories connected to the people who buy our products.  That’s why we’re working to improve our waterways, including the Arkansas River Navigation System. This waterway is responsible for up to $2 billion in transportation trade in Arkansas each year, and tonnage shipped on this system increased by 10 percent last year. We included language that will require the Corps of Engineers to improve coordination with state and local governments, job creators, fishermen, hydroelectric customers, and others that have an interest our rivers. The bill would hold the Corps accountable to provide adequate levels of service for shippers. The ultimate goal is to improve the system’s efficiency, reliability, and availability. 

Flooding is another major concern addressed in this bill. The 2011 Flood claimed several lives, damaged buildings, roads & bridges, and severely impacted Arkansas farms. Without a well-designed, well-maintained levee and flood infrastructure, destruction would have been more severe. In 1927, 14% of the state of Arkansas was flooded by the Mississippi River. Without our infrastructure, the 2011 Flood would have been worse than the 1927 Flood.  

Since 1927, the nation has invested $14 billion to reduce the risks of Mississippi floods. This massive flood risk reduction effort is still being built – bit by bit – and is constructed in partnership with states and local governments.  This “Mississippi River & Tributaries project” has produced a 44 to 1 return on investment, including $612 billion in flood damages prevented.  In the 2011 Flood alone, $234 billion in total flood damages were prevented throughout the Mississippi River Valley. Millions of families and millions of farm acres were protected. Our bill promotes continued wise investments in flood risk reduction. 

Our bill was assembled by a bipartisan committee, with differing ideas and priorities. The legislation is far from perfect, but it shows that by listening and working together, we can make real improvements that create jobs and help communities. I am working to ensure our bill protects taxpayers while promoting the wise use water resources to produce economic growth and opportunity for Arkansas families.