WASHINGTON, DC— Two major efforts to bolster the health of the Mississippi River were announced today during a Capitol Hill briefing by members of Congress and Mayors whose towns, cities, districts and states are touched by the River, according to the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a recently formed mayoral-led effort to create a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River.

Senator Roy Blunt (R, MO), Senator Tom Harkin (D, IA), Congressmen Rick Crawford (R, AR), Congressman Tim Walz (D, MN), Congressman Kind (D, WI), and Congressman Stephen Fincher (R, TN) joined with MRCTI Mayors to announce the formation of the Mississippi River Caucus, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional group that will collaborate in addressing issues impacting the River.


In addition, more than a dozen MRCTI Mayors unveiled a Mississippi River Platform as part of the group's work to bring national attention back to the Mississippi River—America's most critical natural asset—and spearhead a new level of regional cooperation to make it more sustainable. The Platform calls for:

• Enacting an environmentally sound and financially sustainable Water Resources Development Act that includes a Mississippi River Environmental Restoration, Protection and Sustainability Program

• Fostering the continued growth and increased effectiveness of the newly-formed bipartisan Congressional Mississippi River Caucus

• Focusing Federal resources where they can advance the most improvement in the Mississippi River's water quality

• Passing a comprehensive Farm Bill that allows cities to participate in and receive funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program, establishes a national sod saver program, and reestablishes the historic link between conservation compliance and crop insurance premium subsidies

• Establishing a National Drought Council that works with stakeholders to create a drought policy action plan and comprehensive national drought preparedness legislation

• Establishing a multi-agency Federal initiative to develop and implement a coordinated strategy that aids local governments as they address aquatic invasive species in the Mississippi River Basin

• Preserving the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program for hazard planning and project implementation, and fund that program during Fiscal Year 2014 at a level of $100 million

Participating MRCTI Mayors included: Mayor Slay, St. Louis, MO – Co-Chair; Mayor Kleis, St. Cloud, MN – Co-Chair; Mayor Huber, Prescott, WI; Mayor Buol, Dubuque, IA; Mayor Smiley, Clarksville, MO; Mayor Thompson, Grafton, IL; Mayor Hoechst, Alton, IL; Mayor Wharton, Memphis, TN; Mayor Kennemore, Osceola, AR; Mayor Winfield, Vicksburg, MS; Mayor Brown, Natchez, MS; and Mayor Copeland, Vidalia, LA.

Modeled after the successful Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, MRCTI is an effort coordinated by the Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) with funding from the Walton Family Foundation to create an influential voice for the Mississippi River that dramatically increases demand for effective river protection, restoration and management in Washington, D.C. The recent severe drought and floods severely impacted the towns, cities and people who live and make a living along the Mississippi River highlighted the urgent need for a unified effort to protect and sustain the River.

A photographic exhibit—organized by MRCTI in partnership with member-city arts councils—that showcased the beauty and importance of the River served as a backdrop for the briefing. Sponsored by Ingram Barge Company, the exhibit was laid out on top of a giant floor map of the River and featured the work of professional photographers from cities spanning the entire length of the waterway.

As the ecological linchpin to the 37-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $105 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 18 million; transporting 62 percent of our nation's agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting one million jobs and millions more indirectly.

For questions concerning the MRCTI or the Platform, contact NEMWI's Colin Wellenkamp at 314-324-8781.