In the News

NESP Comes Into Its Own (opinion)

May 26, 2023   The Waterways Journal

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After years of authorization and studies but no funding to speak of, the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program is taking off, thanks to a big shot of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.


Congress formally authorized NESP in 2007, but its history stretches all the way back to Corps studies in 1989 and 1990 to address and evaluate ongoing problems to navigation, the congestion at the busiest locks, growing usage and an aging system. The Corps issued a feasibility report in 2004 that identified improvement projects, which Congress authorized.


At the time, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service both stressed that the navigation study would set the future course for both commercial navigation and environmental integrity of the river system for years to come. As the UMRBA says on its website, “The resulting infrastructure investments will reaffirm the future of the river as a regulated pooled system. The significance of this decision cannot be overstated.” Since 2004, the Corps has spent $65 million on technical studies and designs for 47 projects.


The program, which includes 1,000 projects both large and small, will cost an estimated $7.9 billion over 50 years. The past few weeks have seen several groundbreakings of significant projects funded under NESP. On April 23, ground was broken for the first of a series of mooring cells near locks and dams that should have an outsized impact on savings in fuel costs, carbon emissions and bank damage.