A group of mayors from cities along the Mississippi River will head to Paris in December for the United Nation’s climate change conference to begin a conversation with those who manage the world’s other major river basins.
The trip was one of two major announcements from Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative’s (MRTCI) two-day meeting in Washington, D.C. that wrapped up Thursday. The group also heralded promises of $200 million in President Barrack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget for pre-disaster mitigation projects.
The MRTCI is a mayor-led effort comprised of 68 Mississippi River mayors. That group, which calls itself the Mississippi River Mayors, is co-chaired by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
A delegation from the group will attend the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris. The Mississippi River Mayors group will ask the help of international organizations to orchestrate a meeting with them and those who govern the areas around, the Danube, Amazon, Volga, Ganges, Euphrates/Tigris, and Yellow Rivers.
“With years of experience with droughts, floods and hurricanes, the Mississippi Mayors have some expertise with climate disruption and resilience,” Wharton said. “That’s why we are joining the global discussion by partnering with a nation that’s leading the way and attending a key UN meeting.”
During their meeting this week in D.C., the Mississippi River Mayors got guidance from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, which will help the group assemble its delegation. The Dutch have “made remarkable advances in maximizing the benefits of near-water while minimizing the risks of those landscapes, and is seen as a world leader in developing and implementing climate adaptation practices,” according to the MRCTI.
““Major river basins - like the Mississippi - are responsible for a significant portion of the world’s food production,” said MRCTI co-chair Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa. “As demand for food grows exponentially, we will all need to work together to ensure these basins are resilient to the impacts of climate disruption.”
The MRCTI meeting also yielded a “significant victory,” an “all-time high” level of $200 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program. That money will help towns and cities along the Mississippi River to build flood walls and more to help prevent disasters caused by the river.
Wharton pointed to the river flood of 2011, what he called “the big one,” as an example.
“The (Army Corps. Of Engineers) did a great job of containing it…and FEMA and the (Army Corps. Of Engineers) did a great job after the flood,” Wharton said. “We’d like to do an even better job before the floods that come before.”
In Memphis, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation funds could be used for projects to help slow the run-off from the Loosahatchie and Wolf Rivers into the Mississippi River, Wharton said.
Wharton noted that a recent review of the Mississippi River flood walls around Memphis found that the walls had sunk between 9 inches and 18 inches. The sinkage “will not cause any peril,” he said, and the city is already in the process of finding a contractor to fix the walls.