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Strengthening Water Infrastructure

November 19, 2019   Sen. John Boozman

Washington Times (Opinion)

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Our country’s infrastructure systems are in critical need of updating. Fortunately, infrastructure is one of the few things that truly has bipartisan support in Washington.


My colleagues and I have stressed to the administration that it’s time to broaden the scope of traditional infrastructure investment. The response has been positive. We agree that Washington can no longer only fund the traditional three “Rs” of infrastructure: roads, rails and runways. Infrastructure plans for the 21st century must incorporate broadband internet access, modernization of our electric grid and improvements to water infrastructure systems.


An American Society of Civil Engineers study estimates $271 billion in wastewater infrastructure funding is needed over the next 20 years to meet current and future demand. The analysis indicates an additional $1 trillion will be needed over the next 25 years to maintain and expand drinking water services.


Fortunately, we’ve already begun taking steps to recognize and address the need to upgrade water infrastructure, particularly for small and rural communities. Last Congress, I led an initiative to modernize water infrastructure investment by making it easier and more affordable for states to meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. This initiative will benefit communities throughout the country that are often unable to afford upgrades to their wastewater and drinking water systems. Helping finance repairs or replacements to these vital pieces of infrastructure will be a much needed relief for many towns and cities in my state of Arkansas and across the country. My proposal was incorporated into a comprehensive water infrastructure bill that was signed into law by President Trump in 2018.


We’re also continuing efforts to update our aging water infrastructure by enhancing inland waterways. This critical component of our nation’s transportation system is integral to job creation, economic development, transportation, recreation and farming.


The agriculture industry relies on a diverse network of intermodal transportation, which is why investments in our intermodal infrastructure are needed now to remain competitive globally. Many hard-working Arkansans rely heavily on our surface transportation system to ship their crops across the country or export them all over the world. It is imperative that our policies reflect the importance of intermodal transportation. Goods rarely get from point A to point B using just one form of transportation. The trucking industry regularly collaborates with rail to haul freight, making it one of rail’s top customers.


One waterway system particularly important to transportation in the Natural State is the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). This major waterway extends from the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area flowing through Arkansas to the Mississippi River. It’s an economic asset that provides reliable transportation for goods in a 12-state region. A recent economic analysis of the MKARNS found that it generates a total of $10.45 billion in sales, $350 million in taxes and contributes more than 63,618 jobs to the national economy.