The Mississippi River is more than just a river. The waterway connects North Missouri and the Midwest to the rest of America and the rest of the world. It’s estimated that roughly 60 percent of all grain that American farmers export is shipped down the Mississippi River. It isn’t just a one-way street though; we also depend on the river to get fertilizer to the field. Nor is it just important for those of us that farm for a living, we all rely on the oil, gas, and coal shipments that regularly travel by barge.
That said, the Army Corps of Engineers’ new Work Plan includes a big win for North Missouri and the entire Midwest. The Corps will be investing almost $96.5 million dollars in dredging and other improvements to the Upper Mississippi River’s navigation channel. That’s nearly double what the Corps spent on the navigation channel last year. This is huge news because it makes it easier and more efficient for barge traffic to carry goods up and down the river.
Better yet, by making peoples’ lives and livelihoods the top priority like this, these investments will continue to pay big dividends for years to come. The Mississippi River supports hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs throughout the Midwest and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity. That’s big not only for North Missouri and the Midwest, but for our entire country.
Making investments that prioritize people and property should serve as a roadmap for how we can better manage the rest of our Nation’s waterways, including the Missouri River. The Corps of Engineers included money in their plan to study how to improve navigation on the Missouri River, which is a step in the right direction, but we’ve got to make the necessary repairs and improvements to the Missouri River’s navigation channel sooner rather than later. Not doing so affects our communities and leaves a lot of money and jobs on the table. The Missouri River can be a huge economic driver as well, but only if the Corps takes the necessary steps to make it happen.
As I’ve said before, infrastructure, particularly for facilitating interstate and international trade of American-made products, is one of the things the federal government ought to be doing and ought to be doing well. These much-needed improvements to the Upper Mississippi River’s navigation channel are a huge step forward, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to fix our aging infrastructure—repairing roadways, replacing bridges, and yes, fixing the Missouri River navigation channel as well.
The good news is that with these improvements to the Mississippi River, the repairs we’ve been making to our roadways, the replacement of hundreds of aging bridges across Missouri, and other smart investments in our infrastructure, we’re making good progress.
Sam Graves is the Mo. Sixth District U.S. Representative.