23 Meetings: Mississippi River Network Floods the Hill – Virtually!

Last week, the Mississippi River Network (MRN) met with staff and decision-makers from over 20 Congressional offices as part of our virtual fly-in. These meetings are important opportunities for us to not only share MRN policy priorities but also learn more about where decision-makers stand on issues that impact the Mississippi River.

“We wanted to make sure that our meetings focused on ways to build the health and resilience of our River and our communities.”

Like so many of us, Congressional offices are juggling multiple priorities right now all while adjusting to virtual workspaces.  At a time when people all along the River are grappling with the simultaneous impacts of systemic racism, a global pandemic, and an economic downturn, we wanted to make sure that our meetings focused on ways to build the health and resilience of our River and our communities. Below are a few themes that came up in all our virtual fly-in meetings.

 

Nutrient pollution impacts public health

If you’ve been a River Citizen for a long time, you know that nutrient pollution is an issue that impacts all of us. In past blog posts, we have talked about the impact of nutrient pollution on the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, but did you know that every summer beaches and lakes in all of our states are closed to recreation because of harmful algal blooms?

Colleagues at the Iowa Environmental Council (MRN members) snapped these photos from just a few weeks ago at Union Grove Lake – a popular fishing, swimming, and recreation destination between Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. Staff at IEC found the concentrations of a potent algal toxin called microcystin to be 10 times higher than what is safe for recreational use. In the images, you see a family picnicking nearby and IEC staff encountered pets and families recreating at Union Grove Lake when water samples were collected.

With COVID-19, we know that River communities have limited opportunities to be out and about. The risk to our safety and our local economies from nutrient pollution cannot be avoided. During our virtual fly-in meetings, we encouraged Congressional staff to support Farm Bill conservation programs, healthy soil practices and urged more action on state nutrient reduction strategies.

“With COVID-19, we know that River communities have limited opportunities to be out and about. The risk to our safety and our local economies from nutrient pollution cannot be avoided.”

 

Nature-based infrastructure can reinvigorate local economies

During the pandemic, Congress has made several investments to create jobs and jumpstart the economy. At the same time Congress has continued to work on several bipartisan water resources legislation, such as the Water Resources Development Act. In our virtual fly-in meetings, we expressed our strong support for programs and policies that incentivize and advance the use of natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to flooding.

Natural infrastructure (such as restoring wetlands and reconnecting floodplains) is a vital tool to reduce flood and storm damages. It also provides multiple co-benefits to our River communities like protecting water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, and providing resilience to drought — all while creating quality job opportunities across the nation. Natural infrastructure can also be more affordable than built infrastructure (such as floodwalls and levees) and saves money in the long run from repetitive losses from flood damages.

We highlighted American Rivers’ (MRN Member) latest report Rivers As Economic Engines: Investing In Clean Water, Communities and Our Future. The report shows just how investing in rivers can strengthen our economy, and it identifies shovel-ready projects and policies that are ready to receive additional Congressional funding and begin implementing projects on the ground.

 

River Citizens are making their voices heard

Of course, we also talked about YOU – our River Citizens – and all your work to protect the Mississippi River. In one meeting, we were joined by an important River Citizen herself, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17).

In all our virtual fly-in meetings we asked staff and their bosses to join you in becoming a River Citizen. Whether in armchairs or wading boots, River Citizens protect the River by speaking up on its behalf and caring for it in simple ways that make a big difference. Together, we protect the River for future generations.

 

Virtual Fly-in; virtual debrief. Special thanks to individuals from these Mississippi River Network member organizations who participated in the 2020 MRN Virtual D.C. Fly-in: Iowa Environmental Council, American Rivers, Prairie Rivers Network, Friends of the Mississippi River, Healthy Gulf, South Wings, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, League of Women Voters, SouthWings, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Tennessee Environmental Council.

 

-Maisah Khan 

Policy Manager, Mississippi River Network

 

 

 

 

 

Can the River count on you?

Become a River Citizen!

 

 

 

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:

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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

Which of these River-friendly actions are most important to you?