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River Currents Newsletter - January 2010

Web Site Increases Awareness of Gulf Hypoxia Issues

Last week I checked out the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force Web site. www.epa.gov/msbasin/ It was the proverbial "everything you ever wanted to know about hypoxia, but were afraid to ask". I didn't need an advanced degree either to find information I could understand and use.

The Web site is a great resource, with easy-to-grasp charts and visuals telling the magnitude of the problem. Many charts are courtesy of Nancy Rabalais, with Louisiana University's Marine Consortium, and they visually tell the story in an instant why hypoxia is damaging the Gulf. There are videos, too. One from the Science Museum of Minnesota gives comparative information for the size of the dead zone in different years - and you can actually SEE it.

I heartily recommend visiting www.epa.gov/msbasin/ any time you want to find a good explanation for hypoxia and the dead zone. It's the kind of Web site that has remained focused on its subject - the Gulf of Mexico's dangerous dead zone - rather than promoting its host organization or its members' needs. You can still find task force member names, information on plans, meetings and ways to engage public officials about the Gulf. But it has that rare quality to inform - easily and straightforwardly. And for an issue as complex and significant as Gulf hypoxia, its easy access and availability are an important step to spreading awareness and building understanding

Vicksburg to Add Museum to Great River Road Interpretive Centers
Just before the holidays, Vicksburg, Miss. announced construction had started on a new Lower Mississippi River Museum on the city's waterfront. Already a hub of revitalization, the City's waterfront will add the museum which is expected to be completed in about a year and a half. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project will feature MVMississippi IV, a retired ship, as a centerpiece.

The new museum will add to the nearly 65 museums, interpretive centers and historic sites along the Great River Road. These range from the expansive and multi-layered National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium to the LSU Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens. While each one is different, taken together this chain of attractions reflects the history not only of the River, but of America as well. Those who follow the Great River Road are following the development of the country and the lives of early Americans, as well as towns and ports along the way.

This may seem like an odd comparison, but for me the Great River Road is like Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Thyssen presents a trail of Western art from the 13th century to the end of the 20th. When you take the floors in order, you get a crash course in Western European history. By following the River Road, you can get a picture of the United States from its earliest development to present day. The Great River Road, while not necessarily presenting a picture in chronological order, presents a similar collection. The history of America's heartland is on display for just the price of gas.

America's Waterway Joins Summit on Watershed Collaboration
When it comes to collaboration, Mississippi River communities - and some of their leaders - have built a track record. Can what they've learned inform planning and policy for the whole river? "The Mississippi River, A Systems Approach" is one of three panels in the Sustaining Our Water Resources Through Collaboration summit being planned by The Horinko Group for April 13. Designed for executive level water leaders in the public and private sectors, America's Waterway hopes to add to the dialogue with its different way of thinking about the Mississippi River and use of the AmericaSpeaks process for grass roots input on a large scale. For more information about the summit, contact bmcginnis@thehorinkogroup.org or call Brendan McGinnis at 202-955-5580.
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