To address recovery and restoration efforts following this year’s record floods on the Mississippi River, The Nature Conservancy is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies on two new projects, both made possible in part by a $200,000 gift from Wells Fargo & Company.
With this contribution from Wells Fargo, staff from the Conservancy’s “Great Rivers Partnership” are working with the Corps and other federal agencies to investigate opportunities to improve flood-risk management and environmental conditions along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in order to better protect communities during future floods. Those opportunities identified will utilize both “hard” structures, such as levees as dams, and natural river basin features to provide additional flood storage capacity. In addition to improving flood-risk management, opportunities identified are likely to include projects that can help recharge aquifers and improve water quality and habitat for fish, migratory songbirds, waterfowl and recreational activities, all of which help boost the economy.
In a related project, the Conservancy is working with other non-profit organizations and the Corps to fund and conduct the “Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment.” The resulting report, which will include the assessment of some 3 million acres and 954 river miles, will serve as a blueprint for future restoration efforts and evaluate the need for additional recreation opportunities and access along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. A cost-share agreement between the Conservancy and the Corps – which is expected to be signed by early next year – is required before the first of three phases of the assessment begins. The final report is expected in December 2014, however the completion of all three phases depends on additional federal funding.
“The Mississippi River has played a vital role in our history, and its basin provides drinking water for 18 million people,” said Tommy Solomon, Wells Fargo district manager in Jackson. “We are thrilled to contribute to the Great Rivers Partnership and The Nature Conservancy and play a part in restoring this great natural resource, preserving it for generations to come.”
Added Fred Osing, Wells Fargo’s business banking manager for Mississippi, “As the nation’s largest agricultural lender, it’s especially fitting that we help in this way, with so much of our farm economy dependent on the Mississippi.”
Michael Reuter, the director of The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership, said, “We are excited about and thankful for this gift from Wells Fargo. We are confident that in working with our partners and the Army Corps, and with landowners and local communities, we’ll be able to identify opportunities that will make a real difference in flood protection for people along the lower Mississippi River.”
As an example, Reuter referred to a floodplain reconnection project at the Upper Ouachita River National Wildlife Refuge in north Louisiana where the Conservancy worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove portions a levee erected in the 1970s to protect marginal farmlands.
“That project reconnected more than 25 square miles of floodplain to the Ouachita River and now provides flood storage that makes a significant difference for communities along the river, like nearby Monroe, Louisiana, during floods,” Reuter said. “It’s the largest floodplain reconnection in the Mississippi River basin, and there are other opportunities like this out there – opportunities that cumulatively could make a big impact in flood-risk management along the Mississippi River. Opportunities that can also produce lots of other benefits for people, our economy and nature.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.