Wicker Advances Mississippi’s Water Priorities

Investing in Waterways Increases Commerce and Safety

June 3, 2024

For hundreds of years, water has been central to Mississippi’s trade and tourism. We have worked hard to extract the economic development potential of our rivers and coastline. However, we have also learned that water can be both a blessing and a curse. Hurricanes and floods have wreaked havoc on our communities and driven us to invest in safety measures that protect us and our homes and businesses.

Recently, I helped negotiate a bill designed to solve these challenges and set Mississippi up to make the most of our water resources. I serve on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the laws directing water-related projects across the country. The committee voted to send legislation – called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2024 – to the entire U.S. Senate. The bill would authorize improvements for waterways, ports, river systems, dredging, and flood protection across our state.

Legislation Advances Mississippi’s Water Priorities

All told, WRDA would authorize over $142 million toward projects directly benefiting Mississippi.

North DeSoto County has been hit with flood water in recent years, and this bill would authorize funding for flood risk management infrastructure in that area. Farmers and other landowners in nearby Tippah, Alcorn, and Union counties have also experienced damage. Roads, bridges, and levees there have been affected by overflow from the Hatchie River. This bill would expedite the completion of a study to identify the root cause of this issue and the next steps toward solving it.

Communities in Hinds, Rankin, Madison, and Lauderdale counties would receive funding to improve wastewater, storm management, or drinking water systems. The bill would also bring stormwater and drainage infrastructure updates to Hancock County.

WRDA would address the need for continued maintenance of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The bill would authorize funding to meet dredging requirements along the waterway’s locks and dams to help keep this important economic corridor navigable.

Some parts of the bill would serve numerous regions of the state. One provision reduces the share of project costs borne by economically distressed communities. Another would establish a board of levee owners to advise the Army Corps of Engineers on flood control initiatives. Finally, the legislation would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to combine forces with Mississippi State University researchers to use technology to develop water infrastructure and study natural disaster environments.

Stay Vigilant This Hurricane Season 

Mississippians are more familiar with hurricane preparedness than we would like to be. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will be “above-normal,” a term the organization uses to describe seasons in which there may be stronger-than-usual storms.

The damage from Hurricane Katrina motivated us to build new pumping stations, flood walls, levees, drainage systems, and backup power systems. This has significantly improved our preparedness. At the same time, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has set the standard for storm response.

These efforts have prepared our state to weather storms, but we must remain vigilant. MEMA has written a guide to help individuals and families get ready for hurricane season, and I encourage everyone to access it at msema.org.

Developing Water Resources Creates Jobs, Improves Safety

As we make the most of our waterways, we simultaneously boost the commerce and the safety of our communities. Investing in our blue economy, for example, has created jobs and given us new tools for predicting storms.

I will continue working to connect federal resources to water needs across the state. By stewarding this incredible resource, we will continue to make our waterways forces for good in our economy.