Meeting is part of Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.
Forty-one mayors from the Mississippi River basin recently met to discuss how to draw attention to the Mississippi River once again. The meeting was spurred by recent, severe drought conditions and Hurricane Isaac.
“The drought and hurricane serve as urgent reminders that the Mississippi River needs to be a national priority. As Mayors, we have vowed to forge ahead with one voice to protect the local and national interests presented by this vast and important river,” Francis Slay, St. Louis mayor and meeting host, says.
Eight of the 10 states touching the Mississippi River have received United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) drought emergency declarations. Hurricane Isaac further threatened and damaged many River communities, the mayors say.
The meeting was the first for the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) and included officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as state officials and non-government organization stakeholders on critical federal activities affecting Mississippi River cities and towns.
Modeled after the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, MRCTI is an effort coordinated by the Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) with funding from the Walton Family Foundation to create a new and influential voice for the Mississippi River that dramatically increases demand for effective river protection, restoration and management in Washington, D.C.
During the meeting, the mayors set the MRCTI framework for articulating and driving multi-stakeholder solutions to recurring federal and state policy problems that impede environmental and economic health of river communities. They agreed that next steps would include: supporting a Farm Bill, which would provide help to drought devastated communities and protect the national economy from being stressed by higher food and energy prices involving the agriculture, recreation and navigation industries in this effort heading to Capitol Hill in the first quarter of 2013 to demand critical policy changes such as:
- transforming the National Flood Insurance Program to incentivize sustainable development of flood plain areas;
- reforming the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Inland Waterways Trust Fund; and
- focusing on the river’s environmental health to ensure that navigation remains viable.
Longer term, MRCTI says it would like to build its members’ capacity to undertake effective local initiatives to attract green jobs, move to sustainable economies and achieve local environmental protection goals. The Mississippi River is responsible for creating $105 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 18 million; transporting 62 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting one million jobs and millions more indirectly, according to the MRCTI.
More information is available by contacting Colin Wellenkamp at 314-324-8781.