Mississippi River Restoration & Resilience Act to restore water quality and habitat while boosting resilience & environmental justice

The Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Act (MRRRI) has been introduced to coordinate restoration and resilience opportunities up and down the Mississippi River corridor.

The original co-sponsors of the bill are by Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04), along with Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03).

It is an absolute necessity to address ongoing issues with one of North America’s greatest river systems,” Rep. Thompson said. “By prioritizing the Mississippi River, we perform a great duty in providing a healthy atmosphere for our ecosystem, safe drinking water for millions of Americans, and valuable support for America’s economy. Stretching along the entire western border of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, the Mississippi River is our aquatic highway for commerce and wildlife habitat. I am proud to support Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s restoration and resilience initiative.”

The non-regulatory Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (MRRRI) invests in building resilience to increased flooding and storms, improving water quality, restoring wildlife habitat, and stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Protecting the health of the Mississippi River is an issue of racial, climate, and economic justice,” Rep. Bush said. “This legislation will prioritize Black, brown, and Indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change by reducing pollution and restoring wildlife habitats that strengthen our communities’ resilience to climate change. The Mississippi River is the backbone of our region — we must protect our vital waterway and the communities that rely on it for drinking water, jobs, and recreation.

MRRRI will fund community-driven projects, with dedicated investments in those communities that have born the highest costs of environmental degradation.

I applaud this multi-state initiative that will help to ensure that adequate investment is directed toward one of our nation’s greatest rivers and source of drinking water and jobs for millions of Americans,” Rep. Cohen said. “The Mississippi River is the reason my hometown of Memphis exists. It’s important that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes its mandate seriously and continues to improve the health and resilience of this vital American waterway.”

The MRRRI Act authorizes new federal investments to:

  • Improve community resilience to climate change, and reduce flood risk by restoring floodplains, riverine wetlands, delta and coastal wetlands, and backwaters;
  • Improve drinking water quality in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico by reducing polluted runoff;
  • Protect and restore wildlife habitat and throughout the River corridor;
  • Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in the River system; and
  • Make dedicated investments in those communities that have born the highest costs of environmental degradation.

MRRRI will follow the successful model of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to ensure coordinated and sustained federal investments to restore the Mississippi River and protect it as a healthy working river.

The Mississippi River is vital to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, serving not only as our state’s western border but also as a source of safe drinking water and an economic and recreational driver for our entire region,” Rep. Yarmuth said. “By investing in the restoration and resilience of this river, its many tributaries, and its countless plant and animal species, we are protecting our public health, economic security, and shared environmental future. I’m proud to support this legislation to help the mighty Mississippi and I thank my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, for her continued leadership on this important issue.

The co-sponsors introduced the legislation on June 27, 2021.

Here’s what Congresswoman Betty McCollum says about the legislation:

I grew up along the Mississippi River in South St. Paul, Minnesota. The river was and continues to be a working river that is vital to transporting commerce. But for decades, no one cared for the river, and it became a source of pollution that was slowly killing the river ecosystem.

Today, because people who cared stepped up to protect a river that is also the source of drinking water for 20 million Americans, the Mississippi is now a place for families to enjoy and an important flyway for migratory birds—all while supporting jobs and economic growth up and down the river corridor. But from the northernmost headwater communities to the Mississippi Delta, the health of this great river continues to be at risk. A coordinated federal effort is necessary to restore the health of this vital waterway.

I have fond memories as a child of my father taking me to Hastings to watch with wonder at the raising and lowering of the locks to watch boats and barges make their way through the dam and down river.

The river plays a vital role in all of our lives. It is woven into our culture, showing up in America’s literature, poetry, and music. It is a shipping corridor for goods and resources. It is the center of a $500-billion-per-year natural resource and recreation-based economy employing 1.5 million workers.

It’s surprising to many that the River is also a source of drinking water for 20 million Americans.

It is deeply tied to Native American culture: its name comes from the Ojibwe for “big river” and it is a sacred place of origin for many Dakota people. 72 miles of the river are even part of our National Park System, within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

From the northernmost headwaters in Lake Itasca to the Mississippi Delta, the health of this great river continues to be at risk.

Flooding and other extreme weather events, pollution, and runoff threaten the the river and surrounding communities. The health of the river is critical not just for the sake of the natural beauty, wildlife, and climate change-fighting capabilities of these resources, but for our economy and so our communities can thrive as well.

That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation that will establish the Mississippi River Resilience and Restoration Initiative (MRRRI). This initiative will coordinate efforts on conservation and environmental restoration along the entire river corridor and open up grant opportunities for state and local governments, tribes, and nonprofit organizations.

We all learned as children how to spell the “MISS-ISSI-PPI” – instilling in us the significance of this river. With MRRRI, we have the chance to ensure this resource remains a healthy and thriving resource for generations to come.

Photo of Mississippi River by jamescheney82 from Pixabay.

See full text of bill (PDF).

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