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Sen. Baldwin, Rep. McCollum Introduce Legislation to Restore and Protect the Mississippi River

Bill will establish Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative to improve resilience to floods, boost water quality, stop invasive species

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) introduced the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act (MRRRI), legislation to establish an initiative to restore and protect the Mississippi River corridor. The legislation creates a non-regulatory and collaborative initiative to coordinate efforts and invest in building resilience to increased flooding and storms, improving water quality, restoring wildlife habitat, and stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species. The MRRRI is modeled around the successful and broadly-supported Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“The Mississippi River is a water highway for Made in Wisconsin goods, a fresh water source for millions of families, and an iconic American landmark that attracts outdoor enthusiasts and visitors to the Badger State,” said Senator Baldwin. “With extreme weather events like flooding becoming more common, pollution and environmental degradation on the rise, and the increased prevalence of invasive species, we need to work together to protect and restore the Mississippi so it can continue to provide for our families, economy, and way of life. I am proud to champion this initiative to double down on our resiliency and restoration efforts for this freshwater giant, the ecosystems that rely on these waters, and the communities whose economy, health, and future are tied to the Mighty Mississippi.”

“The Mississippi River is a working river, vital for commerce, recreation, and as a source of drinking water for 20 million Americans,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “Because people who cared stepped up in the past to protect it, the Mississippi is a place for families to enjoy, an important flyway for migratory birds, and a source of jobs and economic growth. But there is more work to be done, with decades of pollution having damaged the river’s ecosystem, and new challenges are emerging for communities up and down the corridor. From the northernmost headwater communities, to where I grew up along the river in South St. Paul, to the Middle Mississippi where it meets the Ohio River, and all the way down to the Mississippi Delta—the health of this great river deserves our attention and our investment. Working together alongside states, counties, local governments, and others who love the Mississippi, our coordinated federal effort will promote the resiliency of this vital waterway. I am excited and proud to introduce legislation with Senator Baldwin that will help us Keep it Mighty for the next generation.”

For 20 million Americans, the Mississippi River is their primary source of drinking water. The river supports a $500-billion-a-year commercial, recreation, and natural resources-based river economy that employs 1.5 million people.

MRRRI will fund community-driven projects, with dedicated investments in those communities that have borne the highest costs of pollution and environmental degradation. A regularly updated action plan, developed with public input, will guide the implementation of the MRRRI and the use of federal funds to:

  • Improve water quality to protect drinking water, wildlife, and river-dependent industries by reducing runoff pollution;
  • Reduce flood and storm risks and increase community resilience through natural infrastructure solutions and ecologically sound management;
  • Protect and restore wildlife habitat, including by preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species;
  • Deliver dedicated funding and resources to communities that have borne the highest costs of environmental degradation.

Senator Baldwin has long supported navigation and ecosystem improvements along the Upper Mississippi River. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin works each year to secure strong funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, which monitors the health of the river and restores key habitat for fish and wildlife critical for Wisconsin’s recreational economy.

In 2021 and 2022, Senator Baldwin worked with her colleagues to successfully secure a total of nearly $95 million for the Army Corps of Engineers for the Navigation and Environmental Sustainability Program (NESP) to improve and restore both the capacity and efficiency of the river’s navigation system, as well as the river’s ecosystems. A critical lock and dam project in NESP also received support from the Baldwin-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“The Mississippi River plays a major role in the transportation of agricultural supplies and exports. Due to record low levels in recent years, Wisconsin farmers have suffered because barges are unable to make it upriver to deliver seed. Wisconsin Farmers Union members are also concerned about Mississippi water quality and diversion,” said Julie Keown-Bomar, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “We applaud the efforts of the senators and representatives who are trying to pass the Mississippi River Resilience and Restoration Initiative (MRRRI) Act to protect this resource that is so important to our food system and our farmers' livelihoods.”

“Representative Betty McCollum and Senator Tammy Baldwin are true champions for the river. We’re grateful for their leadership in bringing together the many agencies and stakeholders working to improve the health of our river,” said Whitney Clark, Executive Director of Friends of the Mississippi River. “It's clear that more coordination across federal agencies is needed over the 10-state basin. We’re excited to see this momentum toward a full river program, the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative.”

“Thank you to Representative Betty McCollum and Senator Tammy Baldwin for their continued commitment to a healthier and more resilient Mississippi River,” said Jessie Ritter, Associate Vice President for Water and Coasts at the National Wildlife Federation. “We are hopeful that this bill will provide a basis for continued discussions with decision-makers and stakeholders up and down the river, as we work toward a comprehensive program to advance the restoration of this national asset.”

“It’s hard to overstate the Mississippi River’s importance—from our drinking water to our cultures, traditions, and economy,” said Kelly McGinnis, Executive Director of the Mississippi River Network. “Our river has been in a state of decline for many years, in part because federal programs are under-resourced and not well coordinated. Adding resources and a long-term framework through the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act will go a long way to address this.”

“This is timely and critical legislation. Dedicated funding and technical support to restore the Mississippi River is key to protecting the countless natural ecosystems and communities that depend on its health,” said Sara Walling, Water & Agriculture Program Director of Clean Wisconsin. “This is one of the most important waterways in the world, both economically and environmentally. Thank you to Sen. Baldwin and Rep. McCollum for taking action to give America’s Great River the federal protection it deserves.” 

The Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Full text of this legislation is available here.

A one-pager on this bill and full list of supporters is available here.