Mississippi River Basin Gets a D+


  • America's Watershed Initiative

The Mississippi River Basin got a D+ on a new report card issued Wednesday from America’s Watershed Initiative [AWI].

The river basin scored lowest on infrastructure maintenance with an “F” grade. It also got low marks (Ds) on infrastructure condition, levee condition, water treatment violations, coastal wetlands change, and the size of the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

The basin got Cs for its economy, recreation offerings, and on its ecosystems.

It only got A grades on the lack of lock delays for barges and for low rates of water depletion in its water supply.

The report card is a snapshot of the 31-state basin comprised of more than 250 rivers including the Mississippi and its major tributaries.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was on hand for the presentation Wednesday in his town by AWI. Slay is the co-chair of the newly formed Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, a coalition of mayors of cities up and down the Mississippi River. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is the group’s other chairman.

“If you agree with the findings it is a good thing the mayors have recently come together to make the Mississippi River more sustainable,” Slay said in a statement. “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.”

AWI’s report broke its report into the river’s seven main river basins.

The Lower Mississippi River Basin, which runs from Cairo, Ill., through Memphis and New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico, got a D+.

Here’s what the report says about our part of the basin:

“The low overall score is driven by poor condition of the communities of fish and organisms living in the river and stream bottoms, substantially lower median income, lock delays approaching the worst-performing year, poor infrastructure condition and maintenance, an increase in the number of people moving into the floodplain relative to overall population change, poor levee condition, low numbers of communities with building elevation requirements, and nearly 5 percent of water supply systems reporting treatment violations.”

Also, the report says lock delays and the condition of the inland infrastructure in the lower basin “paints a challenging picture for future transportation system failures, with potentially devastating national economic consequences.”

Here's an AWI video from 2014 that explains the report car and of the Mississippi River Basin's challenges ahead. (The music really gets pumping at around 2:27. Stick around for that.)


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