Justin Fox Burks
The Mississippi River crested its banks in Memphis in 2011 with waters rising up into Tom Lee Park.
Mayors from towns up and down the Mississippi River called for President Donald Trump and Congress to invest in infrastructure projects on the river totaling $7.93 billion.
Those mayors were in Washington last week for the fifth annual Capitol Meeting of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), an association of 75 Mississippi River mayors from cities and towns in all 10 states bordering the Mississippi River.
The group unveiled its infrastructure plan, which it said could largely be paid for by fully funding existing federal programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“President Trump won America’s heartland by promising to rebuild our communities and infrastructure, and now he’s in a position to deliver on that promise,” said Belinda C. Constant, mayor of Gretna, La. “We look forward to working with the administration to protect our nation’s most critical waterway, build up our communities, and bolster the economy of cities and towns throughout the river basin.”
The mayors want $100 million, for example, to fully fund the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which helps 39 states plan for disasters. The current budget cut the program in half, according to the MRCTI, “leaving the region’s residents and economy at risk at a time when climate change is causing damaging extreme weather to occur with greater frequency and severity.”
“The cities and towns along the Mississippi River are geographically vast, and politically and demographically diverse, but we all rely on the river for our drinking water, farmland irrigation, and economies,” said Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, Minn. “But the incredible economic benefits of the Mississippi River extend far beyond the basin. The federal government must invest in protecting and bolstering the river to ensure that we are securing this priceless resource for future generations and maximizing its economic potential.”
Justin Fox Burks
Mississippi River waters reached Beale Street during the flood of 2011.
MRCTI said the infrastructure plan supports eight sectors of U.S. Industry, will generate $24 billion in economic activity, create nearly 100,00 jobs, and mitigate hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster impacts.
Since 2000, natural disasters have become more frequent in the U.S., according to the MRCTI. The Mississippi River Valley has had 100-, 200-, and 500-year flood events. The Valley has also seen a 50-year drought and Hurricanes Katrina and Issac. Since 2011, natural disasters in the Valley have cost more than $50 billion.
“The last decade has brought costly drought and devastating floods to the Mississippi River corridor,” said Frank Klipsch, mayor of Davenport, Iowa. “Davenport has adapted by creating a riverfront park that gives the river room to move, adds to our natural infrastructure, and reduces the cost of protecting our city from the damage floods can cause. But we also need to know that the federal government has our backs when it comes to managing America’s largest waterway, which happens to be in our backyard.”