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A National Dialogue for the Future of America's Waterway


River Currents Newsletter - March 2014

2 Mississippi River States Innovate to Meet Challenges

The Mississippi River is very different in its headwaters and at its Delta. But that doesn't keep Minnesota and Louisiana from pulling out all the stops when it comes to safeguarding and ensuring the River's future.

The two states have come up with strategies unique to their cultures and to the River's dilemmas in their midst. For Minnesota, the Legacy Fund, is supported by a voter-approved tax that allocates public resources to water quality, outdoor heritage, parks & trails, arts and culture and the environment. Clean water projects are wide ranging from sediment monitoring, erosion recovery, farming practices and nutrient reduction. 33 percent of the tax is set aside for clean water and, with the Mississippi River being integral to the state, many of the projects address its issues. Best of all, a quick perusal of the Mississippi River-related projects shows an emphasis on community planning, and funds in the clean water and outdoor heritage categories have gone from nearly $70 million in 2010 to nearly $100 million in 2013.

A unique public private partnership in Louisiana has taken a different, but equally innovative, tact when it comes to wetland preservation, the delta and planning. The Louisiana coastline has been slipping away for generations. Its preservation can be linked to the Mississippi River and its restorative powers. However, development has reduced or sapped this restorative power. After Hurricane Katrina, a comprehensive master plan for the coast was adopted. Now private funders, public agencies and key stakeholders have come together to enable some of the best design thinking in the world to put flesh on the bones of that plan. Called Changing Course in acknowledgement of the Mississippi River's role in the Delta's future, design teams are being recruited worldwide and will take this year, and some of next, to submit their ideas. Stakeholders and the public will be involved in the final selections.

For these two states, the Mississippi River's presence is inescapable. Minnesota and Louisiana haven't shied away from the challenges the River represents to them. And, they've worked hard to embrace the whole river and not leave its protection and use to each individual community. This adoption is proving a unifying force within their boundaries. Their actions serve as a beacon for other Mississippi River states as they search for ways to engage and improve the Mississippi River.

Moline, IL Joins Other Mississippi River Towns Using Civic Engagement for Plans

This month Renew Moline continues its quest to revitalize its Mississippi River waterfront with a plan built on resident input. They join St. Louis, Dubuque and other cities reenergizing themselves through their connection to America's great waterway and civic engagement.

The Renew Moline process started in the neighborhoods where consultants Lakota Group, T.Y.linInternational and Clue Groups analyzed three neighborhoods' existing conditions in relation to transportation, revitalization and appearance. Their findings were submitted to residents for input and finalization, and the plan will again seek resident input for successful integration. The City of Moline is a partner in the process as well.

This growing use of civic engagement by Mississippi River cities and towns is a model for addressing whole-river issues. If neighborhoods and towns along the river can come together to plan for their futures and the role of the Mississippi, wouldn't a similar process work for America's great waterway?

American Cruise Lines Adds To Engagement with Mississippi River

Can't help thinking that behind the addition of another cruise ship is the growing recognition of the importance and uniqueness of the Mississippi River. American Cruise Lines announced in February that its first of four new ships would go to the Mississippi River, doubling its cruise capacity on America's great waterway. The new vessel will launch in 2015. The company cited increased demand for Mississippi River cruises as the factor in the decision.

A big part of these Mississippi River cruises is an introduction to the role of the river in American history and present-day culture. For many, it's a first glimpse of the significance of the Mississippi River, including its size and major economic and cultural impact.

Add this to cities revitalizing their Mississippi River waterfronts and organizations gathering to address specific issues on the river, and you'll get an impression that momentum is building for a countrywide sense of ownership for America's waterway. How that stakeholder sense is shaped and engaged will make a significant difference to the future of the River. It's time to include stakeholders and citizens by building greater understanding of the whole Mississippi River as a watershed. Without that public understanding, momentum will abate and with it, the hope for comprehensive approaches to the River's future.

River Road African American Museum Tells Untold Story

In the early 1990s, Kathe Hambrick gathered the beginnings of a museum collection to educate about and commemorate the cultural heritage and legacy of African Americans who lived along the Mississippi River. From a slave-based economy to the present, the River Road African American Museum provides a factual representation of Louisiana's history in the context of African Americans who played key roles in the state's development. Today, the museum's collection includes several buildings: Central Agricultural Schoolhouse, the True Friend's Benevolent Society Hall, and the African Plantation. Visitors will experience African American influences to the region as well as contributions to the River's heritage.

Mississippi River Inspirations
Take a moment to read Shanai Matteson's narrative on Artists and Designers on the Mississippi River.
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