Mississippi River Mayors Present at U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit on Importance of River Valley Ecology in Curbing Impacts of Climate Change

Mayors call for profile on river's environmental services

For Immediate Release May 31, 2016

Contact: Jim Gwinner, JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774

Beijing, CHINA (June 7, 2016)—Following global river talks in Paris during COP 21 and in Mexico during the World Assembly of River Basins last week, Mayors of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) represented America’s most important waterway at the U.S.- China Climate Leaders Summit presenting on the importance of river valley ecology in capturing carbon. Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, MN and Mayor Roy Buol of Dubuque, IA urged important natural infrastructure provided by river valley be made part of city carbon reduction efforts and called for a profile of the Mississippi River’s environmental services.

“A U.S. River Cities association is playing a role in this Summit because climate impacts are not confined to city or state boundaries, they are multi-regional in scope; and, freshwater ecosystems like the Mississippi River Valley play a valuable role in reducing our greenhouse gas footprint,” said Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul, MN and Co-Chair of MRCTI.

“Our natural infrastructure has carbon and other greenhouse gas reductive properties. A 2013 study by the Smithsonian found that freshwater wetlands, for instance, can absorb up to 32 percent more carbon in greenhouse intensive environments. Forests, marshes, streams, and creek vegetation fed by rivers add to greenhouse gas storage capacity,” explained Roy Buol Mayor of Dubuque, IA and Immediate Past Co-Chair of MRCTI.

The Mayors also shared the MRCTI food and water security agreement they brokered in Paris and added signatories to in Mexico last week during the World Assembly of River Basins. The agreement seeks to protect surface and ground waters to ensure food security and access to drinking water mitigating climate change threats to river basins.

Since China produces food for more than 20 percent of the world’s population and that production is partly sustained by the agriculturally rich three rivers plain, it is important China be included in the effort to protect the world’s food-producing river basins from climate change.

River basins produce the majority of the world’s food supply. Among these, the Mississippi River Basin ranks first in production capacity and China is second. MRCTI has secured signatures to the agreement from river basin organizations comprised of more than 70 nations.

MRCTI is an effort 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. As the ecological linchpin to the 31-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; and directly supporting 1.3 million jobs and millions more indirectly.

More information is available at www.mrcti.org. Contact: Jim Gwinner JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774. 

In Paris, the Stakes Could not be Higher: Mayors Represent MSR at COP21

In Paris, the Stakes Could not be Higher - our food and water lay in the balance

An Op-Ed from the Board of MRCTI, 2015

In the wake of terror attacks that devastated Paris, we want to affirm that we stand with the people of that great city. Like our own Capitol City, Paris is a river city and the Capitol of France. Whether you’re on the Mississippi, the Potomac, or the Seine, we are connected through our freedoms. Winston Churchill once compared Democracy to the Mississippi River describing liberty as a force that charges on relentlessly like the Mississippi does through our country. We are now more motivated than ever to be in Paris and show our solidarity; we go, however, with a broader mission.

There is much at stake in Paris during the United Nations Climate Meeting, much more than polar bears and inconvenient weather. Our ability to produce food and have access to clean fresh water are also at stake.

River basins generate the majority of the world’s food and rivers sustain the majority of freshwater withdraws.

Changes in our climate are compromising the ability of our river basins to produce food and provide freshwater. Thus, one of the greatest threats to the world from climate change is a dramatic alteration to our food supply and decrease of freshwater. Of the food-producing river basins around the planet, the Mississippi River Basin, which covers thirty-one states, ranks first.

Sixty-five percent of the drinking water in the U.S. comes from rivers and streams. Washington, DC sources its water from the Potomac River; fifty U.S. cities use the Mississippi River alone as a drinking water source providing for over 20 million people. In California, two-thirds of the state’s population (26 million people) depends on the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta fed by the Sacramento River for water supply. Yet, this delta resides adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and is at sea level leaving the fresh water and a tremendous food source vulnerable to ocean-level rise.

The federal programs that protect these resources have endured varied levels of funding over the past several cycles. Programs like the state revolving loans funds, water pollution control grants, and the Land & Water Conservation Fund will need to be treated as sustained priorities to meet what is coming over the next few years

. The worlds’ population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 meaning we will need to produce more food in the next 35 years than we have in the last ten thousand. As demand for food grows exponentially, we will all need to work together to ensure the food producing- basins are resilient to the impacts of climate disruption. Indeed, according to a 2012 Frontier Economics Report, 24.7 percent of global economic output will come from the world’s ten most populous river basins by 2050 with the U.S. projected to add 50 million people.

After Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Sandy, 500-year flood events of 2011, and the 50-year drought of 2012, U.S. mayors have something to share about climate disruption and resilience in regards to river basin management. That’s why four of us who are part of a mayoral delegation representing 68 mayor members of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative are headed to the United Nation’s climate change meeting in Paris. We are on a mission to save the world’s rivers, including ours.

As the major food-producing basins of the world become compromised by climate change, mayors are concerned the drop in food output will be compensated for by producing more food in the Mississippi River Valley. If that delta is bridged through conventional agriculture, the result will be devastation to our ecology from the massive amount of inputs used to meet such a demand. We will see the Gulf Hypoxia Zone increase exponentially devastating the Gulf of Mexico which is still recovering from the BP Oil Spill.

Therefore, we will meet with representatives from food-producing river basins to assemble the beginning of what is hoped to eventually be an international River sustainability agreement among food-producing basins that works to protect both the water and food security of the world.

Both the Administration and Congress have been responding to our calls. The U.S. House and Senate formed the bi-cameral Mississippi River Caucus in 2012. The President’s budget has requested more for the PreDisaster Mitigation Grant Program (PDM) for FY 2015 and FY 2016 than in any other time during the program’s 14-year history. Also, the President’s FY 2016 budget proposed a Resilient Landscapes Program within NRCS which is the only climate resilience program that interior cities would be eligible for if you don’t count PDM – a disaster preparedness grant.

The U.S. has played a leading role in food security as well through the Feed the Future Program at USAID. Feed the Future pledged $3.5 billion which leveraged an additional $18.5 billion in support of achieving food security in some of the most food insecure countries on Earth.

We will host talks over two sessions: one to determine the challenges of implementing integrated water management and sustainable agricultural practices and the second to develop solutions on how food and drinking water security may be achieved at an international level. Finally we will unveil the results of the talks on December 8 at 11:45am EST in the United States Center in Paris which can be viewed at www.state.gov/uscenter.

It’s a big task, but we take this seriously. The implications for our river, our nation and our world are too significant to stand by and watch--and hope--others will be a voice.

Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Paul, MN

Mayor Dave Kleis, St. Cloud, MN

Mayor Roy Buol, Dubuque, IA

Mayor Larry Brown, Natchez, MS

Mayors representing cities along the Mississippi River in Paris as part of MRCTI’s delegation include: Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul, MN; Dave Kleis, Mayor of St. Cloud, MN; Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, IA; and Larry Brown, Mayor of Natchez, MS. 

Mississippi River Mayors Lead Food and Water Security Effort at World Assembly of River Basins, 2016

For Immediate Release June 2, 2016

Contact: Jim Gwinner, JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774 Representatives are available for interview

MERIDA, MEXICO (June 2, 2016) - A delegation representing the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) announced new signatories to an international agreement to mitigate climate impact to the world’s food and freshwater supply originally developed during COP 21 in Paris. Mayor Belinda Constant of Gretna, LA, in partnership with the UN Environment Program, the International Network of Basin Organizations, the International Society for River Science, and ecoAmerica, presented today at the First Statutory Session of the World Assembly of River Basins.

Following presentation of the agreement, Mayor Constant presided over a signing of the agreement by river basin organizations comprised of more than 70 nations. “One of the greatest climate change threats to the world is a dramatic alteration to our food supply and decrease of freshwater. Louisiana is the gateway state for the Mississippi’s agricultural output making possible the United Stats’ only trade surplus. Me and my fellow mayors north all the way to Minnesota see the adoption of an international sustainability agreement imperative to saving river basins—including ours—from climate change and major population growth,” said Mayor Belinda Constant, Gretna, LA and MRCTI incoming Co-Chair.

“The adoption of this agreement by these four river basin organizations shows real progress from the work lead by St. Paul Mayor, MN, Chris Coleman in Paris this past December.”

In addition to Mayor Constant, MRCTI was represented by the Association’s Executive Director, Colin Wellenkamp, based in St. Louis. “A significant portion of the world’s food is produced by global corporations. The river basins of the world comprise the most intense areas of agricultural production. Thus, since production is conducted by global entities, river basins need to coordinate and pursue their water and food security interests on global scale as well; representing the world’s most agriculturally productive river, Mayors of the Mississippi are working toward such global coordination,” explained MRCTI Executive Director, Colin Wellenkamp.

The MRCTI agreement was signed today by Mr. Manuel Alejandro Gomez Melchor, President of the North American Network of Basin Organizations; Mr. Normand Cazelais, Secretary General of the North American Network of Basin Organizations; Mr. Lupercio Ziroldo Antonio, Secretary of the Brazilian Network of Basin Organizations; Mr. Ramiro Martinez Costa, President of the Mediterranean Network of Basin Organizations and Tracy Molefi, Chair of the African Network of Basin Organizations.

The agreement seeks to “protect surface and ground waters to ensure food security and access to drinking water” and contains a number of action items around developing a water quantity and quality program. Among these are:

  • developing a robust water monitoring strategy that tracks flows as well as pollutant and nutrient loading;
  • renaturing main-stem and tributary river banks throughout intense agricultural zones; 
  •  employing sustainable agricultural practices such as installation of cover crops and field rotation techniques, use of low flow irrigation, formation of tiered fields, planting of riparian borders, setting of conservation easements, incorporation of integrated pest management techniques, and restoration of forests, grasslands, and river ecosystems.

More than 35 percent of the world’s traditional cropland is located within major global-river basins, producing the vast majority of the world’s food supply. Among these, the Mississippi River Basin ranks first in production capacity. In addition, less than 1 percent of the world’s stock of freshwater is readily accessible by people; of that less than 1 percent, rivers sustain the most withdraws, and yet only account for 0.006 percent of the world’s freshwater. The agreement seeks to mitigate the climate change threat to these basins just as these regions respond to an exploding global population that will require more food production over the next 35 years than in the last ten thousand.

MRCTI is an effort 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. As the ecological linchpin to the 31-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; and directly supporting 1.3 million jobs and millions more indirectly. More information is available at www.mrcti.org.

Contact: Jim Gwinner JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774

Annual Meeting 2016 Press Advisory

Date: September 7, 2016

Contact: Luke Brown, 314-882-0009

Media Briefing Advisory


SEP 14: Mississippi River Mayors gather to announce: Clean Water Partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Marine Highway projects with U.S. Dept. of Transportation; Geotourism site launch for the Mississippi River with Delta Regional Authority, National Geographic, and Big River Strategic Initiative

Press Briefing Part of MRCTI Annual Meeting in Natchez, MS

What                                                                                                                                            More than two dozen river Mayors will hold a press briefing to recommend improvements to disaster mitigation, announce a partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and announce U.S. Department of Transportation Marine Highway projects. These mayors are part of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayoral-led effort comprised of 75 River Mayors committed to creating a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River.

Immediately following the briefing, Mayors will gather with the Delta Regional Authority, Mississippi River Connections Collborative, and National Geographic to launch a Geotourism Product for the Mississippi River. MRCTI is holding its annual meeting in Natchez, MS from September 13-15. 

When                                                                                                                                    MAYORS’ PRESS CONFERENCE Wednesday, September 14 at 11:30am CT (12:30pm ET) NATIONAL GEORAPHIC LAUNCH Wednesday, September 14 at 12:45pm CT (1:45pm ET)

Who

  • Mayor Darryl Grennell, Natchez, MS (Annual Meeting Host)
  • Mayor Buz Craft, Vidalia, LA (Annual Meeting Co-Host)
  • Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Paul, MN (MRCTI Co-Chair)
  • Mayor Belinda Constant, Gretna, LA (MRCTI Co-Chair) 
  • Mayors: 
    • Hon. Dave Kleis, Mayor of St. Cloud, MN
    • Hon. Dan Bender, Mayor of Red Wing, MN
    • Hon. Bob Gallagher, Mayor of Bettendorf, IA
    • Hon. Russell Loven, Mayor of Guttenberg, IA
    • Hon. Tom Thompson, Mayor of Grafton, IL 
    • Hon. Brent Walker, Mayor of Alton, IL
    • Hon. James Spann, Mayor of Hartford, IL
    • Hon. Francis Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, MO
    • Hon. Emeka Jackson-Hicks, Mayor of East St. Louis, IL
    • Hon. David Lattus, Mayor of Hickman, KY 
    • Hon. Tyrone Coleman, Mayor of Cairo, IL
    • Hon. Harry Rediger, Mayor of Cape Girardeau, MO
    • Hon. Dick Bodi, Mayor of New Madrid, MO  
    • Hon, Bill Luckett, Mayor of Clarksdale, MS
    • Hon. Carey Estes, Mayor of Rosedale, MS
    • Hon. Carl Lewis, Mayor of Beulah, MS
    • Hon. Errick Simmons, Mayor of Greenville, MS
    • Hon. Paxton Branch, Mayor of Tallulah, LA
    • Hon. George Flaggs, Mayor of Vicksburg, MS
    • Hon. Edward L. Brown, Sr., Mayor of St. Joseph, LA
    • Hon. Buz Craft, Mayor of Vidalia, LA
    • Hon. Richard Lee, Mayor of Port Allen, LA
  • Paul 'Chip' Jaenichen, Administrator, Maritime Administration, U.S. Dept. of Transportation
  • Brittni Furrow, Senior Director, Global Sustainability, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • Colin Wellenkamp, Executive Director, MRCTI

National Geographic Launch

  • Chris Masingill, Federal Co-Chair, U.S. Delta Regional Authority
  • Frank Baisi, Director of Digital Development & Travel Programs, National Geographic

Where                                                                                                                                                 MAYOR'S PRESS CONFERENCE                                           NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LAUNCH Natchez Visitor Reception Center                                         Carriage House, Stanton Hall Estate 640 South Canal Street (Main Hall)                                       401 High Street                               Natchez, MS 39120                                                                 Natchez, MS 39120

How                                                                                                                                                   Registered reporters may listen live to the Mayors’ Press Conference by calling 712-832-8330 and entering 800 9810. To reserve a spot, email or call Luke Brown at lbrown@ls2group.com, 314-882-0009.  

Why                                                                                                                                                  In the wake of several natural disasters since January, the Mayors of the Mississippi River have come together with Federal and private sector partners to bring opportunities and hope to the region. MRCTI is an effort to bring national attention back to the Mississippi River—America’s most critical natural asset—and cultivate a new level of regional cooperation to make it more sustainable. As the ecological linchpin to the 31-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of the nation’s agricultural output; and directly supporting more than one million jobs and millions more indirectly.

MRCTI Statement on Brexit & Panama Canal

For Immediate Release June 23, 2016

Contact: Jim Gwinner, JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774

Global Events Impact the Mississippi River Valley: Mississippi River has stake in Brexit and Panama Canal Opening

The River and Brexit—The European Union is important to the Mississippi River. U.S. exports of agricultural products to EU countries totaled $11.9 billion in 2013. The EU countries together would rank 5th as an Ag Export Market for the United States. Top Ag exports include: soybeans ($1.5 billion), soybean meal ($860 million), wine and beer ($649 million).

Half of the top ten soy-producing states in the US are along the Mississippi River with Illinois and Minnesota being the first and third producers. Two of the top three beer-producing states in the US are along the Mississippi River – Wisconsin and Missouri.

This trade is made possible by the Union’s open-market system and the les than 3% tariff the Union sustains. The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership the U.S. has with the Union makes much of this possible.

Britain has the 2nd largest GDP of the EU states behind Germany. A British exit will likely impact the economy of the Mississippi River and may increase the costs of doing business with Europe.

“The volatile nature of global trade today is the exact reason we as mayors are working to increase the number of choices open to the Mississippi River – such as a revitalization of the container economy for the waterway,” said Mayor Slay of St. Louis, MO.

The Panama Canal Opening – The Panama expansion project opens for business on June 26 more than doubling the carrying capacity of today.

“The Gulf Region is projected to realize a 12 percent increase in traffic due to the Canal’s expansion which will bring more cargo to the Port of New Orleans, gateway port of the Mississippi River,” noted Belinda Constant, Mayor of Gretna, LA and incoming Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.

“The Mayors of the Mississippi River have been working to restore container movement to the River to take advantage of developments like this. Our project has been officially designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and there are currently several container-on-barge implementation projects under review for Federal grants from the Port of New Orleans to America’s Central Port near St. Louis, added Mayor Hyram Copeland, mayor of Vidalia, LA and Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.

MRCTI is an effort 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. As the ecological linchpin to the 31-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; and directly supporting 1.3 million jobs and millions more indirectly.

More information is available at www.mrcti.org.

Contact: Jim Gwinner JGwinner@LS2Group.com, 314-791-2774. 

MRCTI Statement on Release of Mississippi River Basin Report Card

10-14-2015

MRCTI Co-Chairs' Statement on Release of Mississippi River Basin Report Card

Report Card Echoes Mayors' Message that the River is Critical to the United States and Requires National Attention

(St. Louis, MO) -- Today, Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis represented the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) and presented at the release event of the Mississippi River Basin Report Card assembled by America’s Watershed Initiative (AWI) in St. Louis.

As Co-Chairs of MRCTI, we are pleased to have supported AWI and their partners in producing a useful snapshot of the 31-state basin comprised of more than 250 rivers including the Mississippi and its major tributaries.

In examining the results of the Report Card, we can say this with all confidence: ‘If you agree with the findings it is a good thing the mayors have recently come together to make the Mississippi River more sustainable. We have only been organized for three years and in that short time we have seen improvements to the Mississippi River main stem; but, the main stem is only part of a larger system that requires urgent stewardship.’

The Report Card gives the overall basin a D+, a grade, if accepted, validates what the Mayors of the Mississippi River have been saying to States, Federal Agencies, and Congress since 2012: the River is critical to our nation’s prosperity and has been neglected for too long. This neglect is especially prevalent in basin management areas that received the lowest grades. If you look at the grades for areas along the main stem (where mayors have organized thus far) you will see that the worst grades are for the condition of our infrastructure. Those management areas with closer purview to cities certainly have room for improvement, but exhibit better performance overall.

Cities are doing a lot and will continue to grow our efforts, but we can’t do it alone. Only 18 percent of nutrient loading into the Mississippi River main stem is attributable to cities. Also, cities are doing what we can with the resources at our disposal to maintain the infrastructure we have jurisdiction over. State and local governments provided $320 billion of the $416 billion spent on transportation and water infrastructure in 2014.

Last month, Mayors released an economic profile of the Mississippi River that showed the waterway generated more than double the annual revenue for the nation than previously thought, over $400 billion. But, the economy that Mayors highlighted is living on borrowed time if we can’t address our infrastructure needs and improve our water quality. That is why Mayors also announced last month they would begin developing a clean water program that works to implement the clean water goals already set by the ten Mississippi River states.

The Mississippi River Valley has recently seen its share of reports. We as mayors now urge action. There are federal policy steps that can be taken to improve the basin including robust funding for Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, Section 106 Water Pollution Control Grants, as well as providing adequate resources to bring our infrastructure to a state of good repair.

Whether one believes a grade of D+ is accurate or not, improvement is warranted and will take the total commitment of leaders well beyond just mayors. We, as mayors, stand ready to bring stakeholders together, marshal urban resources, and provide leadership.

MRCTI is an effort 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. As the ecological linchpin to the 31-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 18 million; transporting 40 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting 1.3 million jobs and millions more indirectly.

Chris Coleman, MRCTI Co-Chair, Mayor of St. Paul, MN

Hyram Copeland, MRCTI Co-Chair, Mayor of Vidalia, LA

More information at www.mrcti.org or call MRCTI Executive Director Colin Wellenkamp at 314- 657-3863.

Initiative Co-Chair, Mayor Hyram Copeland, represents Mississippi River Mayors for 2015 Papal Visit

Date: September 23, 2015

Contact: Shawn Flaherty, 703-554-3609

 

MEDIA ADVISORY SEP 23: Mississippi River Mayors were represented by Hyram Copeland, Mayor of Vidalia, LA at White House Arrival Ceremony for Pope Francis

What: Mayor Hyram Copeland of Vidalia, LA and Co-Chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative was invited by President Obama to join him for the White House Arrival Ceremony of Pope Francis on September 23. Mayor Copeland represented the mayors of the Mississippi River for this important event. Then, the Mayor joined faith leaders from around the nation for an interfaith climate meeting at the National Cathedral. 

When: Wednesday, September 23, 8:30am EDT for White House Arrival Ceremony Thursday, September 24, 6:30pm EDT for Faith & Climate Dialogue 

Who: Mayor Hyram Copeland, Vidalia, LA (MRCTI-Co-Chair) Colin Wellenkamp, Executive Director, MRCTI

Where: White House National Cathedral 

How: Accredited members of the press may interview Mayor Copeland by contacting Sheri Rabb at 601-870-1204 or by email at srabb90@bellsouth.net.

Why: The Mayors of the Mississippi River embraced Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment as part of their own call to action for the Mississippi River. Also, mayors are hoping that climate risk and the environment will be part of the Pope’s message when he addresses a joint session of Congress on September 24. MRCTI is an effort to bring national attention back to the Mississippi River—America’s most critical natural asset—and cultivate a new level of regional cooperation to make it more sustainable. As the ecological linchpin to the 37-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 20 million; transporting 40 percent of the nation’s agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting one million jobs and millions more indirectly.