Mississippi River Basin Program

The Mississippi River Basin Program strengthens the policy foundation on which effective water resource protection and restoration occurs by engaging key stakeholders at multiple social, political and geographic scales in ongoing, informed dialogue regarding River Basin water resource issues. Launched in 1995, the Program has a vision for a revitalized, healthy river system that lies at the very center of a community and economic renaissance where all activities occur in such a fashion as to protect and restore the environmental richness and enhance the quality of life of all who live and work within the River Basin.

The Institute collaborates with Mississippi River Basin partners who are involved in a long-term process of effecting environmental policy change. The goals of these partners are far-reaching and reflect a profound change in basic societal conditions and in the existing behaviors associated with environmental conditions in the River Basin. The Institute’s outcomes represent interim accomplishments – inevitably incremental in nature – that create the conditions within which the desired long-term changes in society and the environment can occur.

Current Activities:

The Mississippi River Basin Program enhances, enriches and augments the work of its key Mississippi River Basin partners, including the Mississippi River Collaborative, Mississippi River Network, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, and relevant Congressional coalitions, caucuses and task forces.

Recent activities

  • Presentations at and participation in annual Mississippi River Network meeting, Moline, Illinois, October 14-15, 2014
  • Presentation on effective Mississippi River advocacy tools at Mississippi River Conference, Moline, Illinois, October 16, 2014
  • Coordination for and participation in 2015 Mississippi River Network’s Washington, DC Policy fly-in, February 24-25
  • Development of 2015 policy priorities’ background documents for the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative 2015 Washington, DC Policy fly-in, March 17-19
  • Presentations at and participation in semiannual Mississippi River Collaborative meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 24-26
  • Participation in Mississippi River Network monthly steering committee meetings and calls
  • Participation in Mississippi River Network monthly policy committee meetings and calls
  • Participation in monthly Mississippi River Collaborative nutrient, agriculture and wetland workgroup calls
  • Participation in monthly Floodplain Science Network teleconferences

Upcoming Activities

  • Mississippi River Collaborative semiannual meeting, Madison, Wisconsin, September 15-17, 2015
  • Mississippi River Network Annual meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, October 27-29, 2015

Accomplishments and Impacts:

These Mississippi River Basin Program accomplishments from earlier in 2015 are a representative subset of activities that informed and created the conditions within which the desired long-term goals of our partners can be achieved:

  • Advised the Mississippi River Collaborative, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and Mississippi River Network on the often-changing legislative and regulatory statuses of the Clean Water Act, “Waters of the United States” definition;
  • Advised the Mississippi River Collaborative, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and Mississippi River Network on the developing statuses of proposed Obama Administration budgets, congressional budget plans, and Congressional spending bills related to the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Provided a “114th Congress Legislative Outlook” for the Mississippi River Collaborative at its semiannual meeting;
  • Helped formulate and prepare the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative’s 2015 Federal Policy Platform;
  • Advised the Mississippi River Collaborative of the evolving status of U.S. Department of Agriculture 2014 Farm Bill conservation-related rulemaking and funding related to various programs, including Conservation Compliance, off-site wetland monitoring, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and Conservation Innovation Grants; and
  • Informed the agricultural and water quality efforts of Mississippi River Collaborative member organizations who were reaching out to members of their respective Congressional delegations, and of the Mississippi River Network related to Congressional agricultural and water resources’ advocacy.



On a routine basis, the Mississippi River Basin Program catalyzes the work of its River Basin partners by:

  • Communicating outcome-related news, science and policy information, and associated policy advice, in a timely, clear and concise manner to a broad and diverse suite of local, regional, state and federal stakeholders using a variety of resources;
  • Strategically utilizing messaging tools such social media, workshops, teleconferences, briefings, one-on-one meetings, small group meetings, issue “white papers,” emails, letters and webinars; and
  • Responding to requests for River Basin-related policy analysis, information and advice from various River Basin partners and others.


The Institute’s policy communications related to the Mississippi River Basin are amplified through the routine and strategic use of reporting tools including:

  • Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News” updates – a detailed breakdown and policy analysis of River Basin water resource news, provided at the end of each work week.
  • Capitol Hill This Week” – a prospective look at upcoming River Basin- and water resource-related Congressional activity of relevance to River region and Washington, DC stakeholders, provided on a weekly basis when the U.S. Congress is in session.
  • Contemporaneous analysis of and communications regarding water resource policy news provided in a timely manner to River Basin stakeholders via email reports, teleconferences, and social media (the Northeast-Midwest Institute Mississippi River Basin Blog, and the Mississippi River Basin Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, and Google+ page).

Partners in Our Work:

The Institute partners with elected and other public officials, federal and state agencies, private business and not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations, and community leaders to identify, research and address high priority issues and advance innovative policy solutions. The Institute particularly works closely with and within several key partner organizations that have a direct interest in sustaining and restoring the Mississippi River Basin’s water resources. Those key organizations include the:

  • Mississippi River Collaborative and its member and supporting organizations (participating on the Collaborative’ s agriculture, nutrient and wetland workgroups);
  • Mississippi River Network and its member organizations (participating on its steering and policy committees, and the occasional ad hoc committee);
  • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, its mayors and other city officials;
  • Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association;
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association;
  • Floodplain Science Network (focusing primarily on the Upper Mississippi River Basin);
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center;
  • America’s Watershed Initiative; and
  • America’s Waterway.

In addition to partnering with those key regional and national partners, the Institute affiliates (i.e., networks and routinely communicates with) pivotal Federal water policy-related entities, including Congressional members and staff (especially those related to water- and River-centric committees, coalitions, caucuses and task forces), and Federal agency staff in Washington, DC and in the River Basin, notably from the:

  • Federal Emergency Management Administration;
  • Mississippi River Caucus (U.S. House and Senate)
  • Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force;
  • Mississippi River Valley and Tributaries Caucus (U.S. House)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Civil Works;
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service;
  • U.S. Department of Interior – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Department of Interior – U.S. Geological Survey-National Water Quality Assessment Program;
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Congressional Task Force (U.S. House).

The Institute also collaborates with an array of other organizations on issues that relate to the River Basin, when those alliances serve to advance sustainable water resources within the Basin, and when activities are in accord with Program priorities. Those organizations include the:

  • Association of State Floodplain Managers;
  • Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration (CEER-2014 (New Orleans) planning committee);
  • Great Lakes-Midwest, Society for Ecological Restoration Chapter (International SER-2014 Conference (Madison, Wisconsin) planning committee);
  • Midwestern Governors Association;
  • National Conference of State Legislators;
  • National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER-2013 (Chicago) planning committee);
  • Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance;
  • River Action (in particular its Mississippi River and Upper Mississippi River Conferences);
  • Society for Ecological Restoration Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration Section; and
  • State Environmental Leadership Program.

Finally, on a broader geographic and water resource issue scale, the Mississippi River Basin Program interfaces with the:

  • U.S. Water Alliance (and its One Water Management Network);
  • Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds;
  • Water Environment Federation;
  • Water Protection Network and its member organizations, and
  • Farm Bill Conservation Coalition and its member organizations.

Funders of Our Work:

The Program is primarily supported by a grant from the McKnight Foundation, and strives to advance the McKnight Foundation’s three Mississippi River program priorities, related to water quality, wetland protection and restoration, and cross-boundary and interagency coordination.

The Program is also supported in part with funding provided by the Mississippi River Network.