By Leah Hunter;; 202-225-5506
Friday, March 19, 2010

1406 Longworth House Office Building • Washington, D.C. 20515 • (202) 225-5506

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        

Washington, DC –U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today announced that the Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act, legislation he authored, passed the House of Representatives.  The Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act, H.R. 3671, calls for the development of a coordinated, public-private approach to studying and reducing nutrient and sediment runoff in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and establishes a water-quality monitoring system and a computer modeling program to analyze data.


“The river plays a vital role in our economy and our quality of life in western Wisconsin,” said Rep. Kind, founder and Co-chair of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Congressional Task Force.  “Increased sediment and nutrient flow into the upper basin poses a very serious threat to the long-term health of the entire Mississippi River system. This bill will lay the scientific foundation necessary to ensure the future quality and beauty of the Mississippi for generations to come.”


The accumulation of excess sediment from increased soil erosion and nutrients, such as fertilizers and animal waste, in the Upper Mississippi River Basin degrades aquatic and wetland habitat and imperils a wide variety of fish and waterfowl.  The increased soil erosion causes applied fertilizer from area farms to wash into the river, resulting not only in dangerously high nitrogen and phosphorous levels, but also a reduction in the long-term sustainability and income of family farms, and the plaguing of farmers annually with $300 million in unnecessary costs.   In addition, sediment accumulation fills the main shipping channel of the river and valuable wetlands throughout the basin, reducing the value to wildlife and their capacity as nutrient filters and costing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more than $100 million annually in dredging costs.


The Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act aims to produce the data needed to better understand sediment and nutrient flow from its source in the landscape to its destination in rivers and lakes and drive the innovation needed to solve the excess sediment and nutrient problem in the Mississippi River System.  The legislation establishes a sedimentation and nutrient reduction monitoring network and an integrated computer modeling program that, when combined, will provide the baseline data needed to make scientifically sound and cost-effective decisions to improve the Upper Mississippi River’s ecosystem.


“While there is no easy solution to stopping the runoff of sediment and nutrients into the Upper Mississippi River Basin, this legislation will make significant strides to provide a better understanding of land use that will improve our scientific knowledge of the river.  I have worked closely with farmers, industry, sporting groups, conservation organizations, and government agencies to develop this effective, basin-wide, and non-regulatory approach, and am confident it will find support in the Senate, with the help of Senator Klobuchar.”


The Upper Mississippi River system, with tributaries and a basin encompassing much of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, is widely recognized as one of our nation’s great multi-use natural resources. The Mississippi River and its tributaries provide drinking water to approximately 22 million Americans and the system’s 1,300 navigable miles transport millions of tons of commercial cargo via barges.  In addition, 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl use the wetlands and backwaters of the main stem as a migratory flyway, illustrating the environmental significance of the system as well as recreation capabilities.