Recent public meetings on Upper Mississippi River allowed for citizens to be heard!

This past summer, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) held six public listening sessions for members of the community such as farmers, activists, and concerned citizens who utilize the River. On September 7th, Amitie F., a local River Citizen (and friend), and I traveled to Cape Girardeau, MO to participate in a public listening session and to communicate current issues and opportunities on the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River, Alton, IL. Photo credit: Kristen Mertz

Many organizations, like Mississippi River Network member, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, as well as government agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were also present at this session. We were all in search of discussion on a plethora of questions. The session included conversation on floodplain management and levee repair, nutrient reduction strategies, holistic solutions to River management, and many more.

The first session we attended was floodplain management and levee repair guided by Stephanie Rhodes, a local citizen of Cape Girardeau. One of the questions posed was, “could it be a lack of crisis planning?”. The goal in this session was to initiate discussion on being preventative versus reactive in terms of flooding on the River. Citizens were quick to have an input on the issues by stating that the growth of concrete infrastructure is allowing rain runoff to move more quickly to the River and that cities should have better drainage systems or buffers in place to capture the water. One solution could be to plant rain gardens or implement other green infrastructure projects within cities to help reduce the runoff.

At 1 Mississippi, we believe expanding the use of natural infrastructure is a priority for the River.  By restoring wetlands, marshes, or swamps along the River, we create natural spaces where water stores in high water events like floods, and then slowly release as flooding recedes.  In addition to flood protection benefits, natural infrastructure can increase biodiversity as it creates habitat for waterfowl, fish, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles who rely on the River as well. Wetlands also act as a natural filter for our water by absorbing excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and other toxic chemicals that enter our waterways.

 “Wetlands also act as a natural filter for our water”

Our next listening session focused on nutrient pollution reduction. Our session was led by Chuck Theiling, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who demonstrated how nutrient farming could work along many rivers, or smaller waterways, but may not be as effective in open rivers. First, a levee needs to be set back in order to create a ditch for water to flow through. This ditch would catch water through an entrance of the ditch, filter the water through a diversity of plants to absorb (collect) the excess nutrients, and then send the clean water back in the river. Once the nutrients are collected, they can act as “water quality credits” and provide incentives for farmers who use best management practices (BMPs). “Nutrient Farming” is similar to the notion of “cap and trade”, which has reduced the number of emissions in our atmosphere, and improved air quality. Chuck’s demonstration would work primarily during high water events when you tend to see more excessive nutrients gather in waterways due to runoff. While this would not be the best solution for the Mississippi River itself, it could reduce nutrient pollution coming from smaller tributaries that drain into the River.

1 Mississippi also prioritizes reducing nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River. Excess nutrients that run off from agriculture farms have posed a threat to our water quality. As the Mississippi River provides drinking water to 18 million people, it is critical to ensure our water is safe to consume. Drinking a high quantity of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can be toxic to humans.

“Holistic Approach for Solutions”

Another session included a “Holistic Approach for Solutions” by Ed Smith, with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. In this session, citizens believed there should be better communication in place for what is happening on the Mississippi River, upstream of their location, to be better prepared for what will happen as the River flows downstream. We should also be considerate of what will happen downstream due to our local high-water events as well. For example, many citizens voiced there should be enforcement on levee height, to prevent downstream damage as much as possible. It would be worth considering a multi-state levee height requirement, as the Mississippi River flows through ten different states. There was also an agreement among citizens that farmers and land managers must make the effort to reduce soil erosion, which contains many harmful nutrients affecting our waterways. Some solutions to prevent soil erosion would be reducing tillage, as less disturbance can keep soil compacted, as well as keeping the soil covered with crops year-round to stabilize the soil.

 


UMRBA session from Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, IL. Photo provided by Missouri Coalition for the Environment[/caption]

The UMRBA listening sessions provided feedback to our many concerns along the Mississippi River. It was an inspiring moment to gather various members of the community who aim to protect and restore the River, such as 1 Mississippi does. As the River continues to evolve, surrounding citizens must engage to its adaptations. There is no sense in trying to fight the River, but we can take preventative steps to protect ourselves and our mighty resource.

Unable to Attend? You can still submit your comments!

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are still taking public comments on the future of River Management via this online comment portal:

https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/About/Offices/Programs-and-Project-Management/UMR-F-S-D-Management/

 

Take further action for the River by signing our current petitions:

Full funding for proven solutions to reduce nutrient pollution

Expanding the use of natural infrastructure on the Mississippi River

 

-Kristen Mertz, Mississippi River Network MO/IL Regional Outreach Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Become a

River Citizen

Yes! The River can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:

Step 1

Become a River Citizen

Yes! The river can count on me!

I am committed to protecting the Mississippi River and will take at least three actions to care for this valuable resource. Please keep me informed about actions I can take to protect the Mississippi River as a River Citizen:

 

Step 2

Educate Yourself

One goal for 1 Mississippi is to educate the public on the urgent problems facing the River. We are supported by the Mississippi River Network, a group of organizations that are experts in various areas concerning the River. Each section below is intended to provide some basic knowledge about these important issues and links to experts who can provide more detailed information. 

Nutrient pollution

Importance of floodplains and wetlands

Farm bill conservation programs

 

Step 3

Take Action

There are many ways you can take action. We have a list of 10 actions you can take now, You can volunteer and you can check our action center in order to see what bigger projects we are working on. Here we give you the information you need to call your congressman or sign onto proposals. You can also check out our events calendar to see what events are happening in your area.

10 actions you can take now!

The Action Center

Events Calendar

NO MORE DEAD ZONE – FULLY FUND PROVEN SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE NUTRIENT POLLUTION

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