Home » Breaking News » Mississippi River Leaders Meet to Discuss River Sustainability at Washington, D.C. Roundtable
A diverse group of national, state and local Mississippi River leaders, convened by America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF), gathered Wednesday, June 11, to release findings from its Big River Works leadership forums held over the past 12 months. The speakers, highlighted by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., addressed the Washington, D.C. roundtable addressing the political will and collaboration needed to help create a sustainable and healthy Mississippi River system.
Gathered from more than 400 participants who attended the leadership forums held along the river in cities from Minneapolis to New Orleans, the initiative revealed a number of common concerns and beliefs among the river's many users. Representatives from every level of government - NGO, business and industry leaders - agreed the Mississippi River system must be managed as a single ecosystem, or it will continue to deteriorate, jeopardizing the immense benefits it provides nationwide.
Major General John Peabody, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations and former president of the Mississippi River Commission, emphasized the importance of watershed-scale cooperation, given that 31 states are connected to the Mississippi River watershed. "The Mississippi River Watershed is a key reason for the economic and ecologic wealth of the United States, so a common vision for its use is critical. The profound contrast between the 1927 and 2011 floods proves the value of both a clear vision, and the importance of investing in infrastructure in advance of crises," Peabody said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills also spoke in favor of more cooperative resource management throughout the watershed. "Agriculture plays a tremendous role in this basin. Bringing together a diverse network of public and private partners who are committed to improving the Mississippi River is important in conserving our nation's largest river system," Mills said. "The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a bold new opportunity that offers communities in the Mississippi River Basin-which Secretary Vilsack recently designated as a Critical Conservation Area-a chance to accelerate conservation on their terms."
Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the chairs of the Congressional Mississippi River Caucus, summed up the call to action. "The Mississippi River is a crucial source of water for 18 million people, as well as a diverse habitat for wildlife and a vital artery for our national economy. To meet the increasing demands placed on it by so many interests and economic sectors, the river's health as an ecosystem must be maintained," Harkin said. "The nation should place a renewed emphasis on the Mississippi River's significance and continue building a diverse coalition dedicated to saving the river for future generations."
Discussing her efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta, Sen. Landrieu spoke to her GOMESA initiative, which uses revenue sharing from oil companies to fund restoration projects. "The Mississippi River works," said Sen. Landrieu. "It works for us every day moving the commerce that powers Louisiana and our nation's economy. Through GOMESA, I've gotten the federal government to begin to smartly share oil and gas production revenues to provide a steady, reliable source of funding that can address some of the major infrastructure problems along our coast and the big River. I'll continue to work with America's WETLAND Foundation and local leaders to join together and support the great River and the Louisiana wetlands area."
AWF Outlines Plan For Sustainability
AWF Director Val Marmillion presented findings from The Big River Works forums to outline a future comprehensive plan that will lead to Mississippi River sustainability. Leaders formed a vision for the future of the Mississippi, and four overarching strategies emerged and were discussed:
I. Develop a comprehensive approach to Mississippi River health and sustainability
II. Encourage cooperative action for Mississippi River system health and sustainability
III. Coordinate national approach to Mississippi Watershed governance
IV. Engage the public to build political will
"These aims represent consensus thinking developed through research, focus groups, interviews and months of conversations," said R. King Milling, chairman of the America's WETLAND Foundation. "They are ambitious but so is the scope of action necessary to maintain the long-term health and productivity of the Mississippi River and its delta. We are running out of time."
Ellen Gilinsky, Environmental Protection Agency Senior Policy Advisor, explained, "Given the increasing demands on our water resources, we need to continue to think strategically about our waters as we work together to develop innovative approaches to managing nutrients and improving watershed health throughout the Mississippi River Basin."
"Everyone has a stake in seeing the Mississippi River remains viable," said Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, chair of the state's Mississippi River Coordinating Council. "We believe the best way to accomplish that is to build on existing public-private partnerships and develop a multi-state governance structure that allows for the integration of the river's diverse users."
Since Wednesday, June 11, the America's WETLAND Foundation's Big River Works D.C. forum has gained various media placements across the country.
Links to media coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Additional news outlets:
- The Alexandria Town Talk - Alexandria, La.
- Bayou Buzz - New Orleans, La.
- Billings Gazette - Billings, Mo.
- The Bradenton Herald - Bradenton, Fla.
- The Daily Advertiser - Lafayette, La.
- The Daily News - Anchorage, Ala.
- The Daily World - Louisiana State News by Gannette
- Fairfield Citizen - Fairfield, Conn.
- Federal News Service - Washington, D.C.
- Frontrunner - Online
- Herald Leader - Lexington, Ky.
- Journal Star - Peoria, Ill.
- McClatchy News Service - Washington Bureau
- Merced Sun-Star - Merced, Calif.
- Monroe News Star - Monroe, La.
- The National Memo
- The News Observer - Raleigh, N.C.
- Olympian Online - Olympia, Wash.
- Opelousas Daily World - Opelousas, La.
- Sacramento Bee - Sacramento, Calif.
- The State Journal-Register - Springfield, Ill.
- Star Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
- States News Service - Texas
- Storm Water Solutions - Online
- Sun Herald - Biloxi, Miss.
- Targeted News Service
- Town Talk, Alexandria, La.
- Valley News - West Lebanon, N.H.
- The Wichita Eagle - Wichita, Kan.
- Baton Rouge WVLA-NBC
- Baton Rouge WGMB-FOX
- Alexandria KALB-NBC
- Lafayette KADN-FOX
- Duluth KBJR-NBC
- Duluth KQDS -FOX
- Mankato KEYC-CBS
- Rochester KAAL-ABC
- Minneapolis WCCO-CBS
- Green Bay WLUK-FOX
- LaCrosse WKBT-CBS
- LaCrosse WXOW-ABC
- Eau Claire WQOW-ABC
- Madison WKOW-ABC
- Madison WMTV-NBC
- Milwaukee WISN-ABC
- Milwaukee WITI-FOX
- Wausau WFXS-FOX
- Wausau WSAW-CBS
- Decatur WAND-ABC
- Champaign WICD-NBC
- Peoria WMDB-CBS
- Quincy WGEM-NBC
- Cedar Rapids KWWL-NBC
- Davenport KLIB-FOX
- Des Moines WOI-ABC
- Sioux City KCAU-ABC
- Sioux City KPTH-FOX
- Columbia KMIX-ABC
- Cape Giradeau KFVX-CBS
- Springfield KDEB-FOX
- St. Louis KMOV-CBS
- St. Louis KSDK-NBC
- Chattanooga WTVC-ABC
- Memphis WHBQ-FOX
- Memphis WMC-NBC
- Memphis WPTY-ABC