Mayors urge State/City Coordination to Secure Disaster Mitigation Funding
GREENVILLE, Ms (MRCTI Release) – Mississippi River Mayors announced Monday coordinated efforts among cities to address historic storm impacts on the waterway. Mississippi and Louisiana mayors gathered in Greenville, MS as part of their joint response efforts for the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayoral-led association comprised of 70 River Mayors committed to creating a unified voice for the Mississippi River.
“Just two months after historic flooding on the Mississippi, we are now faced with prolonged storm events creating impacts greater than what we saw in 2008 during Hurricane Gustav,” said Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons.
Long-duration storms have stalled over the Mississippi River Valley from Missouri to Louisiana creating dangerous flash floods prompting the evacuation of hundreds of people. The storms have put three-fourths of the State of Mississippi under flood water, with flashflood watches and warnings impacting 12 million people. In Louisiana, 5,000 homes were damaged and 3,500 homes were evacuated as up to sixteen inches of rain fell in some areas.
Twenty MRCTI cities were affected by six days of storms with another storm event anticipated. This new storm is predicted to bring considerable rainfall to the Upper Mississippi River which will set the stage for high water on the River to flow south into the hardest-hit areas. These storms come on the heels of historic flooding in January that affected middle-Mississippi River cities such as Grafton, IL; St. Louis, MO; Alton, IL; and Arnold, MO. These towns and cities all experienced their third highest levels of flooding in history. Flood impacts were felt all the way to New Orleans.
“There is a way to better handle this increased rainfall and it starts with managing the River holistically as a dynamic resource. It is a major freight corridor, but it is also a complex ecosystem whose natural flood control systems need to be restored if we are to survive this new normal” explained Mayor Hyram Copeland of Vidalia, LA and MRCTI co-chair.
The Mayors also discussed their substantial progress in securing funds to prepare for future storm events making the Mississippi River Valley more resilient to disasters. Working with members of the Mississippi River Caucus in the U.S. House and Senate, the Mayors realized a three-year goal of renewed funding for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant Program of $100 million in the spending bill passed by Congress in December. However, PDM is a state grant and Mayors called on their states to coordinate with them in applying for a portion of the $100 million now available. Specifically, Mayors urged their states to create a Mississippi River portion to their PDM applications and treat the River not as a border, but as a shared essential resource with mitigation projects that treat the river as one interrelated system.
Participating Mayors in the Greenville press conference included Paxton Branch, Mayor of Tallulah, LA; Hyram Copeland, Mayor of Vidalia, LA; Errick Simmons, Mayor of Greenville, MS; and Carey Estes, Mayor of Rosedale, MS
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 $400 billion worth of U.S. GDP; providing drinking water for more than 18 million; transporting 40 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.