BETTENDORF — The Mississippi River Watershed scored a D+ on the most recent report card issued by America’s Watershed Initiative.
The report card looked at six goals for the river: ecosystems, flood control and risk reduction, transportation, water supply, economy and recreation.
It divides the watershed into five basins, with each receiving an individual grade based on those goals. The Upper Mississippi River basin, which includes the Quad-Cities, received a C, the highest grade awarded by the report. The Missouri River basin, the Arkansas River and Red River basin and the Ohio River and Tennessee River basin all received C- grades, while the Lower Mississippi River basin received a D+.
The report was presented Wednesday by Jordy Jordahl, director of America’s Watershed Initiative, to the Mississippi River Commission during its annual low-water inspection trip aboard the Motor Vessel Mississippi. The Corps of Engineers craft — which passed through the Quad-Cities Wednesday — is the largest diesel towboat on the Mississippi at 241 feet long and 52 feet tall.
Mr. Jordahl highlighted the vastness of the Mississippi River Watershed, noting it accounted for more than 40 percent of watershed in the U.S. and includes all or part of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
In 2007, the National Research Council called the Mississippi River Watershed an “orphan,” according to Mr. Jordahl. That was an apt description, he said, adding many people focus on parts of the watershed rather than the breadth of issues throughout it.
One of initiative’s goals is to bring those people together for the good of the whole watershed, Mr. Jordahl said. The initiative is collaborating with more than 400 businesses, organizations, academics and federal, state and local agencies.
“Everything about America’s Watershed Initiative is about partnerships, and it’s about collaboration,” he said. “It’s about working with all of these different people and perspectives and voices in the Mississippi River Watershed.”
Among the many topics of the watershed report, one aspect stuck out for Dru Buntin, executive director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association headquartered in St. Paul, Minn.
Many locks on the upper Mississippi River only have one lock chamber, he said.
“If they go down, that shuts down everything moving on the river,” Mr. Buntin said. “Sixty percent of the grain exports going out of this country comes out of the Mississippi River, so it’s important for us to make sure that there’s adequate funding to make sure these locks continue to operate.”
The report also graded 17 elements that contribute to the initiative’s six goals. None received an A; only two — lock delays and water depletion — received B’s.
The river faces several problems beside infrastructure, according to the report. Mr. Jordahl said people in the “water box” understand those problems, as well as the benefits of the river, and must make the rest of the nation understand them, too.
“It’ll take all of us continuing to work together to show the next (presidential) administration how important and valuable our inland waterway system is to our nation and the world,” said Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher.
In the future, the initiative plans to recognize innovation within the watershed and share it with other areas. It also plans to collaborate with others to raise the grade and create an updated report card in 2020, Mr. Jordahl said.
Wednesday’s meetings and discussions were part of a series of conversations the seven-member, presidentially appointed Mississippi River Commission will host during its inspection. It later will report its findings to Congress.
During its trip, the commission plans to host seven public meetings, inviting about 1,000 people onto the MV Mississippi as it travels from Minnesota to Louisiana, according to Bob Anderson, the chief of public affairs for the commission.
“The main thing is to listen to what’s going on,” Mr. Anderson said.
“The old way of doing things is we would tell everybody what the answer was,” he said. “And the new way of doing things is to listen to the people that live here and what they think because they’re the experts.”
The complete America’s Watershed Initiative report card is online at americaswatershed.org/reportcard.