Great News: Over fifty mayors from Mississippi River cities and towns have landed a Memorandum of Common Purpose with the Corps of Engineers. Announcing this on Thursday, June 27 at a St. Cloud, Minn. meeting of Mississippi River Cities and Town mayors, the agreement provides that the two – the mayors and Corps — will work together on common river sustainability issues. It’s a step in the direction of unified approaches to America’s great river.
But what does sustainability look like and what will it take to achieve it? Once there, who will continue to ensure that measures put in place remain the right ones and make necessary changes to fit new river basin understandings? Sustainability isn’t stagnant. Indeed, like the river itself, it ebbs, flows, meanders and gets applied in new and different ways by its human residents.
For the mayors and the Corps the first step is agreeing to cooperate. They have many topics in which they share common interests: navigation, agriculture, water infrastructure, recreation, tourism, economic development and jobs. Their agreement sets the precedent for increased cooperation on several fronts and has the potential – because it carries the weight of so many elected officials with their own constituencies – to form the basis for more uniform approaches to America’s great waterway.
The outcomes of this collaboration will need support of their own though. And how does the Mississippi River build a constituency that has a stake in river-wide issues, too. It takes more than organizations and elected officials to address the challenges of integrated river management on a scale as large and diverse as the Mississippi River. It takes public agreement and support for unified approaches.
That’s where the second part of the St. Cloud meeting comes in. Labeled on the agenda as “Partnerships for the River – Mayors Create a Convergence Point”, speakers from the America’s Wetland Foundation and America’s Watershed Initiative will lead the discussion.
Within this framework, America’s Waterway offers a unique vehicle for building that public support as well as river-wide capacity to instill sustainability culturally, economically and socially. Our proposed National Dialogue for the Future of the Mississippi River, as produced by America’s premier deliberative decision-making organization – AmericaSpeaks – provides that vehicle for sustainability of a river as vast and important to the nation as the Mississippi. Our web-based community will make it possible for that constituency to have a place to live and interact on behalf of America’s great river in the future as well as the present. America’s Waterway is a concept that serves the 21st Century needs of the Mississippi, and we stand ready to join with others to ensure that America’s river gains sustainability in this millennium and into the future.