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A National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway


River Currents Newsletter - October 2010

The Ancient River Dance: An Updated Version

While reading Bayou Farewell, by Mike Tydwell, I came across this straightforward statement of the situation. "Today, rivers give us hydroelectric power and a means to cool industrial hot-water discharges. They take our garbage, our feces, our urine, our PCBs, and other chemical wastes and runoff. Smaller branches, reengineered by human hands, serve as safety-valve spillways for flood-prone larger streams. Rivers give us wild stocks of fish and bankside space for aquaculture. They give us watery real estate around the world for entire communities living the buoyant life, atop houseboats. Rivers offer us recreation, soothing our minds aboard quiet canoes or wading through trout streams or tour-boating past castles along the Rhine - and they feed our souls through holy purification. Millions of Hindus erase their sins each year in the sacred Ganges...."

What other natural resource means so many different things to so many people who live by it, use it and worship it?

Tidwell aptly calls this, "the ancient riparian dance between people and water." And maybe that's what we're seeing play out now as groups meet and discuss what they think would be best for the Mississippi River.

But who holds the keys to the outcome of this ancient dance? More pointedly, in the case of the Mississippi River, the nation's iconic river, who is authorized to build a common vision so that whole river approaches can be developed? Is it scientists, community developers, government regulators, states, municipalities or single interest groups all up and down the river?

The answer is none of the above and all of the above. The basic premise in the ancient dance between people and water is it's the people who must have the collective will to embrace their dance partner - in this case, the Mississippi River. Processes exist that can make this happen. The core principles for public engagement, created a little over a year ago by experts in the fields of collaboration and public policy, provide the basics. And organizations like AmericaSpeaks, E-Democracy, Public Agenda and Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy know how to do the choreography. America's Waterway - so named because it aims to become the on-line, web-based constituency - is the ritual's internet-based dance floor, extending across jurisdictional and geographic boundaries.

Join us, won't you, as we ease out onto the dance floor. It's about engaging the public - people - in a deliberate discourse, one that will both bring us together and enable us to move toward a shared vision for America's river, the Mississippi.

NGRREC Dedicates Field Station
The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, established to be a premier, LEED-engineered, national river research, education and policy center at the confluence of three of America's great rivers, will dedicate its field station in honor of Congressman Jerry F. Costello of Illinois on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. The public is invited. Check it out at www.ngrrec.org.

Security and Sustainability Forum Webinar Holds Keys to
Successful Water Project Management - Oct. 20

Anne Lewis, founder of America's Waterway, will lead a panel of water and civic engagement experts - Robyn Colosimo, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, AmericaSpeaks, and Tim Bonnemann, Intellitics, Inc. - in a webinar for regulators, nonprofits, economic development officials and tourism directors on Civic Engagement for Rivers: Build Success into your Sustainability Projects. The webinar is free and you can find more information and register at www.Americaswaterway.org. Scroll down or go to www.securityandsustainabilityforum.org.

Horinko Water Salon Beside America's Iconic River
On Oct 25th, the Horinko Group will sponsor the third in its series of Water Salons. The first Water Salon featured Gerry Gallagher who led the salon in distinguishing the barriers to breaking out of the "water box". Stephen Gasteyer, Michigan State University, led the second Water Salon in a discussion of social capital and how it can be tapped for water projects. The third Water Salon to be held beside the Mississippi River at the National Great Rivers Museum in Alton, Ill. will feature Engaging the Public for River Sustainability and Livable Communities. Todd Ambs, president of River Network and Theo Brown, AmericaSpeaks, will join Anne Lewis by sharing their insights as the group explores the Core Principles For Public Engagement on behalf of rivers. For more information about past salons and this one, click here.

Steven Clift, Founder, President of E-Democracy,
Joins America's Waterway Board

Steven Clift will join the America's Waterway board of directors. We'll celebrate by adding E-Democracy's public engagement local Issues Forum network to our website as a resource for communities up and down the River. We hope people will use it to share ideas for the Mississippi River. Look for more information coming soon. Steve grew up on the Mississippi River in Winona, Minn. and lives near it in Minneapolis. Learn more about Steve, E-Democracy and their Issues Forums at www.e-democracy.org.

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