Mississippi River Mayors Meet in New Orleans
By Derek Brockbank, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign
Last month, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, an alliance of 65 mayors from along the Mississippi River, met in New Orleans to discuss issues common to all cities along the great river. Topics ranged from how the Panama Canal expansion will impact shipping and ports in the U.S. to funding river initiatives, but the primary focus of the meeting was addressing climate impacts and the collapse of the Mississippi River Delta.
On climate, the mayors heard from Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Climate & Land Use, U.S. Geological Survey. A co-author of the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment, Dr. Burkett outlined how climate change poses a suite of challenges to Mississippi River cities. These included human health impacts from temperature increases, increased flooding from more frequent and intense precipitation in the watershed and, of course, more powerful storm events in the Gulf Coast that threaten the mouth of the Mississippi.
Furthermore, climate change is a leading factor in relative sea level rise, which is inundating coastal marshes in the Mississippi River’s delta. As the marsh disappears and seas rise, ports in Louisiana are increasingly threatened from storms. These ports are essential to transporting grains and goods from states all along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Mayor Mark Vulich, from Clinton, Iowa, noted that coming to New Orleans and hearing about the loss of wetlands in the delta brought home how the Mississippi River system is interconnected and why mayors from along the river need to work together.
The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative meeting in Louisiana was sponsored by National Wildlife Federation.