The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) was created to provide an influential voice for the Mississippi River, dramatically increasing demand for effective river protection, restoration, and management in Washington, DC. It addresses matters of mutual concern, including: river water quality and habitat restoration, flooding and floodplain issues, river-focused recreation, sustainable economies, and celebration of the River culture and history.
Selected Presentations and Photos from the 2014 Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA
Session: Navigational Commerce: Panama Canal Expansion & Impacts on the Mississippi River
Session: Funding Work to Improve Near-Water Communities
Session: Achieving Climate Resiliency in the Mississippi River Valley
Session: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, our Closest Partner
Edward E. Belk, Jr., Sr. Executive Service, Mississippi River Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Session: Realizing Environmental Excellence and Sustainable Development for the Mississippi River
Session: The Future of the Trust Funds that Maintain our Infrastructure
PHOTOS (Photos by Erin Dey. All rights reserved.)
MRCTI Mayors Mitch Landrieu (New Orleans) and co-chair Roy Buol (Dubuque) sign agreement with Dominik Knoll, chair, World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance, and Don Hickman, chairman, Mississippi River Partnership of Community Foundations, to work together toward sustainable River projects. The announcement was made during the MRCTI annual meeting held recently in New Orleans. Photo by: Erin Dey.
For Immediate Release Contact: Shawn Flaherty, 703-554-3609
Two Major Sustainability Efforts Announced by Mayors Wharton, Buol, Landrieu and 22 Other Mayors to Promote Mississippi River Commerce and Health
American Water Writes Inaugural Check for Sustainable Development Fund
New Orleans (September 17, 2014)—Twenty-five Mayors gathered in New Orleans to unveil the Mississippi River Sustainable Development Fund and a partnership between the Mississippi River World Trade Center Alliance and 18 Community Foundations serving communities along the River. Hosted by Mayor Landrieu, the Mayors were attending a two-day annual meeting for the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayor-led effort comprised of 65 River Mayors committed to creating a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River.
"As MRCTI members, we have been able to collectively bring national attention back to America's most important river. Our livelihoods, health, and futures are all linked to the Mississippi River; and I am proud to host these Mayors as we protect and promote our precious waterway," explained New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
With an initial $15,000 contribution from American Water, the Fund will provide grants to support start-up costs associated with sustainable waterfront development and will provide valuable seed-money for city sustainable waterfront development projects. Cities from Minnesota to Louisiana have developed remarkable plans for riverfront parks, ecosystem restoration, the establishment of green tourism destinations, repair of critical water infrastructure, or expansion of economic engines such as ports and terminals. Typically, the most difficult funding to secure are start-up costs, so this fund will help ensure that projects like these get off the ground.
In announcing the Fund, MRCTI Co-Chair Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, IA said: “Every dollar invested in water infrastructure yields two dollars in economic development. Infrastructure is the physical platform of our economy; and we mayors want to do what we can to sustain that platform. This fund gives us another way.”
Also, during the conference, MRCTI Mayor co-chairs, Dominik Knoll, chair, World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance—consisting of seven World Trade Centers, and Don Hickman, chairman, Mississippi River Partnership of Community Foundations—representing 18 community foundations, signed an agreement to work together toward sustainable River projects. The partnership will build investments around river-centric projects at the local level. Now, community foundations can partner with their world trade center for assistance in completing any number of initiatives that are linked to the Mississippi.
“The partnership will encourage big and imaginative efforts that will improve our River communities. Anything from youth enrichment programs that engage students in the importance of the River’s ecology and economy to restoration projects that reclaim natural landscapes from previous, less sustainable uses are on the table,” explained MRCTI Co-Chair AC Wharton, Mayor of Memphis.
Other participating Mayors included: Dan Bender, Red Wing, MN; Paxton Branch, Tallulah, LA; Donnie Brown, New Madrid, MO; Edward Brown, St. Joseph, LA; Larry Brown, Natchez, MS; Belinda Constant, Gretna, LA; Hyram Copeland, Vidalia, LA; John Cox III, Greenville, MS; George Flaggs, Vicksburg, MS; Robert S. Gallagher, Bettendorf, IA; Kip Holden, Baton Rouge, LA; Lionel Johnson, St. Gabriel, LA; David Kleis, St. Cloud, MN; David Lattus, Hickman, KY; Richard Lee, Port Allen, LA; Russell Loven, Guttenberg, IA; Harry Rediger, Cape Girardeau, MO; Francis Slay, St. Louis, MO; Jo Anne Smiley, Clarksville, MO; Tom Thompson, Grafton, IL; Mark Vulich, Clinton, IA; and Brant Walker, Alton, IL.
Organized by the Northeast-Midwest Institute and funded by the Walton Foundation, MRCTI is an effort to bring national attention back to the Mississippi River—America’s most critical natural asset—and spearhead a new level of regional cooperation to make it more sustainable. As the ecological linchpin to the 37-state Mississippi River Basin, the River is responsible for creating $200 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 18 million; transporting 62 percent of our nation’s agricultural output; delivering nearly 400 tons of coal and petroleum products; and directly supporting one million jobs and millions more indirectly.
Join mayors from along the Mississippi River for their 3rd Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.
Invited guests can log onto the Westin New Orleans Canal Place website to make their reservation.
Check-back with this site often to view the most recent meeting agenda.
Mayors move container-on-barge shipping forward
April 29, 2014, St. Louis, MO: Mayors of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) gathered in St. Louis for the Annual Meeting of the Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Association (IRPT). At the meeting, IRPT committed to working with the Mayors to realize container-on-barge shipping on the Mississippi River once again. IRPT President Hugh McConnell signed, along with Mayor Slay of St. Louis, the MRCTI Sustainable Economies Resolution pledging their commitment to container-on-barge shipping for the Mississippi.
“IRPT’s support will help propel this container-on-barge shipping line forward. We expect it will have a significant impact on our River region by providing jobs and improving transportation,” said Mayor Slay. “It will position us to be a global economic force, ensuring we better use the River assets to increase the region’s economic health and competitiveness.”
The line was initially unveiled by MRCTI in October at the Mississippi River Economy Summit held in Memphis. This effort builds-off the container shipping line previously run from Memphis to New Orleans and the line about to be initiated by the IL Soybean Association.
With early commitments from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chism Hardy Investments, Ingram Barge Company, Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals, the line will relieve freight congestion, create economic opportunity for River ports and other intermodal industries, and attract investment in River infrastructure. These organizations—and more—are expected to also sign the resolution before the fall. The resolution will be presented to the U.S. Maritime Administration as a next step in making the program a reality under the Administration’s Marine Highway Program.
Container-on-barge shipping is a common way to distribute goods in other parts of the world, including Europe and China, and will create significant efficiencies in the transportation of goods and services and relieve freight bottlenecks on the in-land waterway system. According to the Department of Transportation, these traffic jams cost the American economy $200 billion annually.
MRCTI moves headquarters to St. Louis, MO
Mayors announced MRCTI’s move from Washington, DC to St. Louis as part of the group’s efforts to solidify support for the River. MRCTI Executive Director Colin Wellenkamp will be heading up the St. Louis office, now located at 1520 Market Street in St. Louis. Mayor Slay of St. Louis welcomed MRCTI to his city and thanked NEMW for all its support and effort to headquarter MRCTI in Missouri. MRCTI will remain under the auspices of NEMW until the association officially branches off and becomes its own independent organization. MRCTI is a mayoral-led effort comprised of 61 River Mayors committed to creating a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River.
Mayors Meet for Annual Meeting in Washington, DC
Mississippi River Mayors Secure Three Agreements to Move the Mississippi River Economy Forward
Mayor AC Wharton of Memphis leads press conference at the Mississippi River Economy Summit announcing agreements secured regarding container-on-barge shipping and the World Trade Centers along the Mississippi River.
Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill discusses how Mayors’ effort is a game-changing force for the communities along the River in the Delta region.
Mississippi River Mayors and DRA Announce Agreement with Ports and Shippers to Start Container-on-Barge Program to Reduce River Bottlenecks and Build the Mississippi River Economy
Leaders of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayoral-led effort to create a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River, and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) announced several breakthroughs during a first of its kind Mississippi River Economy Summit, which was hosted by MRCTI, the Delta Regional Authority, and the City of Memphis and convened some of the most important River stakeholders.
Mayor AC Wharton, of Memphis, TN and MRCTI co-chair, commented: “What this Economy Summit demonstrates, even in the face of decreasing Federal investment in our infrastructure and a shutdown, is that Mayors are moving forward to protect and grow our economies. The container-on-barge effort is a significant example and a game changer for all of us who live along—and make a living from—the mighty Mississippi.”
DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said, “The Mississippi River is the lifeblood of the Delta region’s economy. The DRA recognizes the important role the commercial and physical vitality of the River plays in supporting our regional and local economies. Oftentimes innovation and leadership is driven at the local level, and in this case, our mayors are the ones driving the growth of our region to become a player in the global economy by utilizing the assets of the Mississippi River. We are proud to be a part of this partnership with the mayors, ports, and shipping industry.”
According to the Department of Transportation, freight bottlenecks on the River cost the American economy $200 billion annually. During the Summit, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Memphis-based Chism Hardy Investments, Ingram Barge Company, Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Inc., and the IL Soybean Association pledged to work together toward container shipping on the Mississippi River, which will relieve freight congestion, create economic opportunity for its ports and other intermodal industries, and attract investment in the River infrastructure. This service development will be possible by building on the container shipping that previously ran from Memphis to New Orleans, which the Illinois Soybean Association is seeking to re-establish from within their state’s geography and initiate market-based, commercial operations.
Container-on-barge shipping is a common way to distribute goods in other parts of the world, including Europe and China. The agreements worked out at the Summit are dependent on the U.S. Maritime Administration taking a coordination role.
“All-in-all, what we are talking about here is making it cheaper and easier to conduct business – this creates a global advantage for our private sector. China understands this dynamic, that is why they invest 9 percent of their GDP in infrastructure while the U.S. invests less than 3 percent,” explained Mayor Brown, Natchez, MS.
Another Summit development is the new working relationship being established with the World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance, comprised of seven world trade centers along the Mississippi River lead by the World Trade Center of New Orleans.
“The relationship we are building with the Alliance will hopefully help better align local investment in River sustainability projects by building investment opportunities between world trade centers and community foundations along the Mississippi River,” said Mayor Dickie Kennemore, Osceola, AR.
The Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee provided a sneak peek of the economic profile of the lower Mississippi River, which further demonstrated the importance of the Summit and the MRCTI to the River’s future. The preview report noted that the region faced turbulent times, marked by hurricanes, oil spills, floods, droughts, and economic upheaval. Despite this, preliminary findings show that the lower River was responsible for generating $164 billion in revenue in 2011 and supported nearly 585,000 jobs in 2011. Manufacturing was responsible for a bulk of the revenue ($115 billion) followed by tourism ($16 billion) and then agriculture/aquaculture ($9 billion). The full profile—which is the first report of its kind that captures river related economic activity for the lower portion of the River since 2004—is scheduled to be released in December and will provide important data for making decisions about the waterway.
Thirteen mayors participated in the meeting and briefing: Mayor A.C. Wharton, Memphis – TN, Host (Co-Chair); Mayor Roy Buol – Dubuque, IA (Co-Chair); Mayor Donnie Brown – New Madrid, MO; Mayor Larry Brown – Natchez, MS; Mayor John Cox III – Greenville, MS; Mayor George Flaggs – Vicksburg, MS; Mayor Dickie Kennemore – Osceola, AR; Mayor David Kleis – St. Cloud, MN; Mayor David Lattus – Hickman, KY; Mayor Harry Rediger – Cape Girardeau, MO; Mayor James Spann – Hartford, IL; Mayor Tom Thompson, Grafton, IL; and Mayor Brant Walker – Alton, IL.
- Bruce Lamber - The Mississippi River as a Link to Global Trade
- Bruce Reid - Preview Unveiling of LMRCC Lower Mississippi River Economic Profile
- Charles Theiling - Hydroponic Nutrient Reduction and Feedstock Production in Agricultural Levee Districts
- Dan Mecklenborg - Barge Transportation
- Dirk Draper - Innovative Alternative Delivery Concept for Rehab/Replacement of Locks and Dams
- Scott Sigman - Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative
Mayors’ Press Conference: Edward Belk, Senior Civilian Member of the USACE Mississippi River Commission speaks at the Mayors’ press conference announcing the signing of an historic Memorandum of Common Purpose with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
New Executive Committee: The newly elected MRCTI Executive Committee is presented at the closing luncheon of MRCTI’s 2nd Annual Meeting in St. Cloud. From left to right; Hyram Copeland, Vidalia, LA; David Lattus, Hickman, KY; Mark Huber, Prescott, WI; Tom Thompson, Grafton, IL; Mark Vulich, Clinton, IA; Roy Buol (Co-Chair), Dubuque, IA; Larry “Butch” Brown, Natchez, MS; AC Wharton (Co-Chair), Memphis, TN; Jo Anne Smiley, Clarksville, MO; Francis Slay (Founding Member), St. Louis, MO; Dave Kleis, St. Cloud, MN.
View the Memorandum of Common Purpose.
About the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative
The Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) received a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to create a new and influential voice for the Mississippi River dramatically increasing demand for effective river protection, restoration and management in Washington, DC in 2012. NEMWI's Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) addresses matters of mutual concern, including:
- River water quality and habitat restoration,
- Flooding and floodplain issues,
- River-focused recreation,
- Sustainable economies,
- Celebration of the River culture and history.
Over 3 million residents collectively populate the 124 Mississippi River main stem cities and towns. These riparian population centers are soundly River-centric. MRCTI gives a common voice to those who depend most upon the River, and by virtue of doing so, spans political and economic interests. That is, it taps a natural source of the longed-for integration of transportation, farming, industrial, municipal and environmental interests to launch lasting solutions to River management issues.
The outcome of the MRCTI is designed to be tangible improvement of Mississippi River:
- Water quality,
- Flood and floodplain management, and
- River economy and environmental protection.
The MRCTI articulates and helps drive multi-stakeholder solutions to recurring federal and state policy problems that impede environmental and economic health of river communities. This project also builds capacity of the MRCTI members to undertake effective local initiatives to attract green jobs, move to sustainable economies and achieve local environmental protection goals. Ultimately, this work helps protect and restore the Mississippi River as a natural system that can sustainably support human culture and economies as well as wildlife.
MRCTI is a local government-lead effort empowering the ten States and over one hundred cities that border the Mississippi River to act for its continued prosperity, sustainability, and economic growth. Through MRCTI mayors and other leaders cooperate to give new urgency to issues facing the Mississippi River, and new strength to effectively resolve them.