Mississippi River makes list of Most Endangered Rivers

Guest Blog from Nancy Paraskevopoulos, 1 Mississippi Campaign Organizer, www.1mississippi.net.The Mississippi River runs through the heart of our nation. It’s a source for jobs, wildlife, recreation and cultural icons. But pollution from agriculture, development and industry is wrecking our Big River. This pollution threatens our drinking water, quality of life and our economies. This pollution threatens our drinking water, economies and quality of life.The incredible flooding of the Mississippi River earned it a “special mention” in American Rivers’ annual list of Most Endangered Rivers, announced on May 17. The 2011 floods, which are the worst since 1927, have displaced people from their homes and caused as yet uncalculated damage to tax payers and families.The flood of 1927 was the result of eight months of sustained high waters, but the flood of 2011 reared and appeared in the space of a month. What’s the difference between 1927 and 2011? With the loss of wetlands and river floodplains, there is less space for the water to flow in the greater Mississippi valley.Wetlands filter pollutants, absorb excess rainwater and reduce flooding by acting as a giant sponge. Scientists estimate that returning lands in the Upper Mississippi River basin to their original formwetlandswould significantly reduce future flooding. In Mississippi and Louisiana, more than 370,000 acres have been enrolled in the Farm Bill’s Wetland Reserve Program from its inception through 2008, creating habitat for ducks and wildlife and reducing flood potential for all Mississippi River citizens.While levees and floodwalls make sense in heavily populated areas, their overuse causes flood levels to rise as the river channel is narrowed and water has nowhere to go but up – making flooding worse for communities downstream. Levees should be our last line of defense, not our only line of defense. Government’s job is to protect us and our most basic needs, like clean water and flood control. But as the 2011 flood damage piles up, it’s clear that government can do better.The Obama Administration has an opportunity now to transform the way we plan and implement water resource projects for things like flood control. The water resource planning Principles and Guidelines set criteria and requirements that guide how tax payer dollars and government resources are used when solving water problems.To protect the Mississippi River for future generations and get it off the Most Endangered Rivers list for good, President Obama needs to make the new planning guidelines better by requiring projects to use non-structural approaches like wetlands to solve water problems whenever possible. If a water resources problem can be solved by non-structural solutions that help to protect and restore our natural defenses, this should be the first choice.Nancy Paraskevopoulos, 1 Mississippi Campaign Organizer, www.1mississippi.net1 Mississippi is the public campaign of the Mississippi River Network: Headwaters to Gulf, a coalition of 37 nonprofit organizations and businesses, including the Gulf Restoration Network, working together from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico to protect the land, water and people of America’s greatest River. We live in many states, but all are connected to each other through this mighty River. We are one nation and 1 Mississippi.

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