Weekly Columns

Water is essential to our way of life in Arkansas. This natural resource helps sustain a robust outdoor life throughout the state for residents and wildlife alike. If you’re like me, you enjoy fishing. The rivers and lakes in Arkansas boast some of the best fishing in the country, and countless Arkansas families spend their summers boating, swimming and canoeing on our lakes, rivers, and streams. 

As a basic need, water is important to our survival in addition to economic development. Arkansans saw the economic toll the drought brought to our state in 2012. The drought made it difficult for our ranchers to maintain their herds because of the availability of hay and grazing pasture. The drought also hit farmers who need water to irrigate their crops. And long-term water challenges include increasing groundwater shortages across our state. 

In addition to droughts there are other issues such as contamination, aging infrastructure and inadequate funding that can all cause disruptions in the quantity and security of water supplies. Arkansans are planning and thinking ahead in order to secure our future water needs. Cooperation and planning for the future are key. 

In Washington, we’re working to help on this front and protect our water resources to make sure our communities have the supplies they require to meet the needs of residents. In recent weeks, I visited with leaders from across the state of Arkansas who traveled to Washington to share their concerns about many water issues, including the supply, availability and quality of this vital resource. 

Many have expressed concern that the President’s Budget for 2015 proposes to take $581 million out of low-interest loan programs that help communities pay for both safe drinking water infrastructure and improved sewer infrastructure. These cuts will make our water dirtier. Instead, the President has proposed to shift this funding toward increases in the EPA’s regulatory budget. In other words, the Administration’s strategy is “regulate more, but help pay for less.”  I am committed to fighting the President’s foolish priorities. 

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee I helped craft bipartisan legislation to improve our nation’s water resources policy by reforming the Army Corps of Engineers to increase transparency, improve the reliability of water supply and hydropower, and reduce flood risks. This is an important piece of legislation. The Senate passed its version of this bill, known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), by a vote of 83 to 14. 

Now we’re working through differences between the WRDA bills passed by House of Representatives and the Senate. I’m working to make sure the final bill will reduce project delays so we can cut costs and save taxpayer dollars. The legislation should help improve reliability at Arkansas river ports and waterways that our farms and factories use to ship their products. 

And if we’re successful, our bipartisan bill will help to maintain and improve those lakes where so many Arkansas families will be spending their time this summer.