CSG Webinar: Restoring the Mississippi River Watershed. October 9, 2012

Val Marmillion, the featured speaker of CSG’s webinar “Restoring the Mississippi River Watershed,” kicked off his presentation by noting water quality and supply is perhaps one of the most important issues for state policymakers yet it receives little media attention. As the managing director of America’s WETLAND Foundation, his organization plays a vital role as a neutral arbiter that seeks consensus solutions to help raise awareness and increase support for efforts to save wetlands and coastal areas. The need to promote comprehensive solutions to mitigate these resource losses now is more crucial than ever as Marmillion remarked that coastal wetlands and marshes the size of football fields in Louisiana are being lost at the rate of once every hour.

The foundation has created and utilized consensus-based task forces to tackle regional issues. One example, the America’s Energy Coast program, helps promote coastal restoration work and improve resiliency by including a wide variety of stakeholders from businesses, elected leaders (local, state, federal), conservation organizations and academia. In the case of the America’s Energy Coast program, non-partisan leadership forums were convened to help create a regional dialogue for coastal issues, identify specific vulnerabilities of the Gulf Coast, develop core recommendations to ensure positive outcomes and promote the empowerment of local communities. The program’s goal was also to enhance the roles of states to interact with federal government when addressing complex issues like environmental mitigation, maintaining coastal infrastructure/waterways and cutting through bureaucratic silos that complicate the restoration process.

Experiences garnered from that program were used as a template to help shape the Big River Works initiative that is being led by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Louisiana Lt.Gov. Jay Dardenne. The initiative seeks to bring together the river’s diverse stakeholders to share strategies and outline opportunities to improve cooperation as well as improve sustainability in the entire 31-state watershed.   

The focus of previous and upcoming forums for the Big River Works initiative will focus on the following issues:

  • Sediment flow
  • Nutrient discharges and hypoxia (or “Dead Zones”)
  • Hydrology
  • Watershed connectivity/tributaries
  • Species Management

CSG members were encouraged to attend and participate in upcoming Big River Works meetings that will be held over the coming weeks and months that will focus on specific topics. Below are the dates and more detailed programmatic information:

  • “The Big River Thrives” – Being held at the headquarters office of Ducks Unlimited in Memphis, Tenn. on Oct. 17, 2012. The focus will be on sustaining ecosystems, flyways, fisheries and estuaries as well as system management.
  • “The Big River Lives” – Convening in St. Louis, Mo. on Dec. 6, 2012, it will focus on improving water quality and quantity. Further, river access issues will be discussed as well as carbon and nutrient load management.
  • “The Big River Provides” – Will be held on Jan. 17, 2013, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. and the forum will revolve around connecting shared interests and identifying common goals of disparate stakeholders.
  • “The Big River Moves” – This two-day event taking place in Chicago, Ill. on Feb. 26-27 2013 will promote commerce on the river while sustaining environmental features of navigation, flood control and coastal restoration.

 Download slides in pdf

Restoring the Mississippi River Watershed