The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) was formed in 1981 as a successor to the former federally authorized Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission. When that Commission was terminated by a Presidential Executive Order in 1981, the Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin signed a joint resolution calling for “the continuation of an interstate organization to maintain communication and cooperation among the states on matters related to water planning and management.”
The five member states of the UMRBA are represented by gubernatorial appointees. Generally, the Governor’s designee is from a state agency with substantial responsibilities for water resource management. This person is responsible for coordinating with other state agencies and providing for their direct involvement when necessary. The Governor may appoint alternate representatives from a variety of state agencies to facilitate internal state coordination and assure that a broad range of state authorities and perspectives are considered in the deliberations of the Association.
Six federal agencies also participate in the UMRBA as advisory members including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service), Department of Homeland Security (Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency), Department of the Interior (Fish and Wildlife Service and Geological Survey), Department of Transportation (Maritime Administration), and Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the federal members are non-voting, they are valuable and active participants in many of the UMRBA’s activities and meetings. With their participation, the UMRBA is able to serve as a regional forum for the states and their federal agency counterparts to discuss major policy and management issues. However, it is important to emphasize that the federal agencies are not official members of the organization, which speaks on behalf of the states alone.
The purpose of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association is to facilitate dialogue and cooperative action regarding water and related land resource issues. More specifically, UMRBA aims to:
· Serve as a regional interstate forum for the discussion, study, and evaluation of river-related issues of common concern to the states of the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
· Facilitate and foster cooperative planning and coordinated management of the region’s water and related land resources.
· Create opportunities and means for the states and federal agencies responsible for management of water resources in the Upper Mississippi River Basin to exchange information.
· Develop regional positions on river resource issues and serve as an advocate of the basin states’ collective interests before Congress and the federal agencies.
The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association engages in the discussion, evaluation, and study of a variety of topics, ranging from policy and budget matters to specific resource management concerns. Over the years, the Association has addressed a wide range of issues including: nonpoint pollution, water quality planning and management, interbasin diversions, cost-sharing strategies, water project financing, sediment and erosion, hazardous spills, toxic pollution, habitat restoration, navigation capacity, channel maintenance, flood response and recovery, floodplain management, wetland protection, hydropower development and licensing, and drought planning.