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A National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway

River Currents Newsletter - March 2009

The Mississippi River Needs a Summit of its Own
This appears to be the era of Summits. Not summits as in mountain tops. Rather, this is the era to get all the leaders in a room to discuss monumental issues and try to come up with a plan. In October it was the Housing Summit. In March, it's the Health Care Summit. Could there be a Mississippi River summit in 2010?

America's Waterway will hold a Mississippi River summit of sorts. Only it won't be held in Washington and it won't require people to travel long distances.

The National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway will seek the input of the people and organizations with the biggest stake in the River, the Mississippi River communities. We'll do this using time-tested facilitation techniques enhanced through the use of the latest, most flexible electronic technology. In today's world of Internet connectedness, we can finally apply communication technologies to address a long-recognized problem for our country's major river - the lack of unified approaches addressing the critical issues of the Mississippi River.

To do this, America's Waterway plans to partner with AmericaSpeaks, the premier producer of large-scale grass roots policy discussions and community agenda setting. We also plan to tap 10 communities directly through their community foundations and enable River-wide input via telecommunication and social networking. It's time to exploit the power of the Internet to create a unified constituency for the Mississippi River.

Why is it time? The sentiment for unified approaches, mostly in the area of water quality and ecosystems, has been building slowly but steadily in recent years. In 2007, the National Research Council, in a report on Mississippi River water quality, called on the Environmental Protection Agency to take a leadership role in coordinating and overseeing state activities along the Mississippi. "State resources devoted to these programs vary widely, and there is no single program that oversees the entire River, making it an 'orphan' in terms of monitoring and assessment…" the report stated. The EPA seemed to agree last fall at a meeting of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association when an assistant administrator was quoted as stating, "..that the Mississippi River should be acknowledged as one of the country's important aquatic systems, just as the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay [ ] are." Then, last December, the National Research Council, in a second River report, called for a Nutrient Control Implementation Initiative for the whole Mississippi.

Unified approaches aren't confined to water quality. Community development efforts and cultural heritage issues along the River could stand to be approached from a whole-River perspective, too. What the people at the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation are doing on behalf of community development should be shared and optimized with broader application to more Mississippi River communities. And the work of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium can strengthen and enhance the vital work of cultural heritage venues along the River as well.

The key is tapping the Internet and all the social networking tools at our disposal to ensure River community input into whole-River approaches. Until now, forming a constituency on behalf of the Mississippi River has been logistically and politically overwhelming. But with the resources and expertise of AmericaSpeaks and the development of a dedicated Web site with a variety of social networking tools - along with the mindset to apply the tools on behalf of public policy - a unified Mississippi River constituency is possible.

If you, too, agree that the time is right for a unified Mississippi constituency to start acknowledging what it has in common and acting on those concerns, please let us know. Go to our Web site and post a comment or, better yet, email us and tell us what you think should be included in a first Mississippi River summit. As we move forward, we'll need your insight and support. The time is now - we look forward to hearing from you.

Save the Date

What: The Potential of Civic Engagement for the Mississippi River; A presentation and discussion with America's Waterway and AmericaSpeaks
Where: The 10th Annual River Rally, Baltimore, MD Hyatt Hotel
When: 5:00 PM, Saturday May 30
Why: To explore what's involved in building an on-line community for a natural resource like a River and the ways in which technology can build active citizen participation in public decision making.
Who: America's Waterway, the organization and Web site
engaging the Mississippi River community so comprehensive, whole-River approaches to its character, condition and future can develop.

Check this out:

Last Fall Karl Palazzolo of St. Louis completed the journey from the Mississippi River headwaters to St. Cloud, Minnesota. His video blog is at www.seasicktours.com.

For more information please email:

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