Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mississippi River Mayors and Legislators Announce New Congressional River Caucus and River Agenda

In a briefing that centered on the job-creating potential and economic driving force of the Mississippi River, mayors and lawmakers from along the length of the River met on Capitol Hill today to formally announce a new Mississippi River Congressional Caucus, and the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative's new, River-focused policy platform.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Tim Walz (D-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) co-chair the newly formed, bicameral Mississippi River Congressional Caucus (along with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and gave introductory remarks in officially launching their bipartisan effort.

The announcement of the mayor's policy "platform to restore and sustain the Mississippi River" was moderated by the Initiative's co-chair, Dave Kleis, Mayor of St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Including Kleis, seven of the eleven mayors at the event each presented one of seven corresponding priority issues, which range from directing limited Federal resources where they can be most effective to passage of a fiscally-sustainable Water Resources Development Act that addresses the way the Army Corps of Engineers manages water resources projects to a Farm Bill that contains a national sodsaver provision and links farmland conservation to receipt of Federal insurance subsidies. The entire list of priority agenda items includes:
  • Enacting an environmentally sound and financially sustainable Water Resources Development Act that includes a Mississippi River Environmental Restoration, Protection and Sustainability Program;
  • Foster 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 sodsaver 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; and
  • 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.
An expanded discussion of the platform issues, including a more detailed explanation of each priority item and the background behind each issue, can be found in this document (available as a PDF file).

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative consists of mayors from 45 River cities and towns from New Orleans, Louisiana in the south to St. Cloud, Minnesota in the north. The Initiative is run by a steering committee consisting of one mayoral representative from each of the ten main-stem Mississippi River states, and is co-chaired by Kleis and St. Louis, Missouri Mayor Francis Slay. From north to south, the entire roster of the Initiative's cities and towns is currently:

  • Minnesota: St. Cloud, Clearwater, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Red Wing, Winona
  • Wisconsin: Prairie du Chien, Prescott, La Crosse
  • Illinois: Sauget, Prairie du Rocher, Chester, Savanna, East Moline, Grafton, Alton, Moline, Rock Island, Cairo
  • Iowa: Muscatine, Guttenberg, Burlington, Dubuque, Fort Madison, Clinton, Bettendorf, Lansing, Davenport
  • Kentucky: Wickliffe, Columbus
  • Missouri: LaGrange, Clarksville, Ste. Genevieve, Canton, East St. Louis, St. Louis
  • Tennessee: Tiptonville, Memphis
  • Arkansas: Helena, Osceola
  • Mississippi: Vicksburg, Natchez
  • Louisiana: Vidalia, Baton Rouge, New Orleans
Along with Sens. Harkin and Blunt, Senate members of the Mississippi River Caucus are John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).  In addition to Reps. Kind, Walz, Fincher and Crawford, House members of the Caucus include Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Graves (R-MO), Tim Griffin (R-AR), Stephen (R-TN), David Loebsack (D-IA) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

Both announcements were made among a backdrop of photographs from along the Mississippi River in the U.S. Capitol's House Cannon Caucus Room. The photo exhibit was developed in partnership with 17 Initiative member-city arts councils and commissions along the Mississippi River, which contributed photographs from various artists designed to depict the beauty of, life along and challenges posed by the Mississippi River.  Additional photos of the press event and River photography display can be seen here.

Funding for the development of the Initiative by the Northeast-Midwest Institute has been provided by the Walton Family Foundation. Further information about the Initiative, and its policy and legislative platform can be obtained by contacting its Director, Colin Wellenkamp at the Northeast-Midwest Institute ( and 202-464-4010).

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