By Senator Roy Blunt and Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson
The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are important natural resources that are vital to our state's identity, culture and economy. Yet during years of abundant rainfall or runoff, communities along the rivers and throughout the entire region can face enormous challenges.
We've been reminded of this reality during the last two years, as families, farmers and small business owners in New Madrid and Mississippi counties have suffered great losses thanks to historic flooding followed by record drought. These natural disasters -- and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to proactively breach the Birds Point-New Madrid levee -- have ruined personal property, closed businesses and shut down vital transportation corridors.
Missourians have worked tirelessly to help each other rebuild during this time of need, but there's still more work to be done if we're going to protect the Bootheel region the next time floodwaters rise. The first step is ensuring that our national river policies are focused primarily on flood protection. To that end, we've worked to prioritize limited federal resources and streamline critical funding for Missouri's flood control efforts to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers' annual budget puts more emphasis on flood protection than land acquisition.
It's also essential that we invest in solutions to protect infrastructure and prevent future damage resulting from natural disasters. One example is the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project, which would close the gap in the levee. By completing this project, we can decrease Southeast Missouri's vulnerability to flooding and provide residents with much-needed certainty moving forward.
We have visited the project site, we have met with local stakeholders, and we have listened to the people who live here. We've seen firsthand the benefits that the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project would provide -- both for the environment and for flood protection purposes.
In the more than three decades since this project has been under development, the Corps of Engineers and local sponsors have gone to great lengths to address concerns and make modifications to not only benefit the project area, but to help the entire region. A number of federal agencies -- including the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency -- have also provided significant input to ensure this project respects the local environment while protecting communities, businesses and personal property during future floods.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration inexplicably took action last week to stall this
important flood protection effort. This decision was made without explanation, leaving local residents and communities hanging in the balance. This interruption is unacceptable, and we have called on the Obama administration to explain why it has decided to suspend progress on a flood protection project that is vital to the economic survival of the region.
In the wake of unprecedented disasters in the past two years, the last thing Missourians need is more uncertainty from Washington bureaucrats. The Obama administration owes Missourians an explanation.
Roy Blunt represents Missouri in the U.S. Senate. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau represents Missouri's 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.