Weekly Columns

In Arkansas we are blessed with an abundance of water resources that factor into our everyday lives, from clean drinking water to irrigation for crops and ideal settings for outdoor recreation. Whether it’s the Mississippi River or the Ouachita River, or other bodies of water like DeGray or Norfork Lake, a diverse range of opportunities and challenges are at stake with our waterways and groundwater.

It is important to remember the vital role the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) plays in the management of these resources within our state.

There is great respect for the task the Corps must carry out and its impact on the average Arkansan’s life. I have worked closely with Corps leaders on many projects to benefit The Natural State. With three Corps Districts managing Arkansas land and water – Vicksburg, Little Rock and Mississippi Valley – there is ongoing collaboration for the sake of efficiency and maximum utilization in addressing our transportation, energy, conservation, recreation and agriculture needs.

The Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers’ ability to support freight transport is a key tool for our state’s farmers, ranchers and producers. On the Arkansas River alone, roughly 11 million tons of commodities are shipped annually up and down the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) that begins at the confluence of the White and Mississippi Rivers and runs to Oklahoma. 

The MKARNS is the Corps’ largest public works project. For more than 50 years, it has helped enable enhanced navigation, flood control, power generation, habitat conservation and economic development in our state and beyond. 

Having direct access to this transportation artery, and others throughout Arkansas that amount to more than 1,000 miles of navigable waterways, gives our state’s agriculture industry access to ports across the country and the world. 

That’s why we work closely with the Corps to ensure the MKARNS continues to meet these needs. I’ve been a longtime champion of deepening the channel to increase capacity for river barges and welcome the significant investment the Little Rock District recently received for the 12-foot channel deepening project.

The Corps also plays an important role in managing safety and environmental issues for our waterways and related structures. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, I proudly support these efforts and am committed to advocating measures to provide the funding and resources necessary for it to carry out that essential work.

Congress routinely makes updates to these policies by crafting a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), usually every other year. Through this legislation we authorize investments in new or existing ports and inland waterways, mitigate flood risk and improve Corps programs. Recently the EPW Committee started the process of writing the 2024 WRDA bill. I have helped improve and advance this legislation in the past and will continue to do so.

We can be very proud of the work of the Corps does to support our waterways. This summer Vicksburg District celebrated its 150th anniversary and I was pleased to recognize this milestone in a statement to the congressional record.

Ensuring the Corps has the funding and resources to support its mission to maintain the underpinning of our country, our waterways, is vital. Through oversight of the Corps, I have the ability to confirm the agency is intentional in its decision-making to preserve and protect the waters in Arkansas. I look forward to further opportunities to do just that in the short-term and beyond.