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Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (MRRRI)

Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (MRRRI)

Canoeing on Mississippi

I grew up along the Mississippi River in South St. Paul, Minnesota. The river was and continues to be a working river that is vital to transporting commerce. But for decades, no one cared for the river, and it became a source of pollution that was slowly killing the river ecosystem.

I have fond memories as a child of my father taking me to Hastings to watch with wonder at the raising and lowering of the locks to watch boats and barges make their way through the dam and down river.

Today, because people who cared stepped up to protect it, the Mississippi is not only a working river but a place for families to enjoy.

The river plays a vital role in all of our lives. It is woven into our culture, showing up in America’s literature, poetry, and music. It is a shipping corridor for goods and resources. It is the center of a $500-billion-per-year natural resource and recreation-based economy employing 1.5 million workers. It’s surprising to many that the River is also a source of drinking water for 20 million Americans. It is deeply tied to Native American culture – its name comes from the Ojibwe for “big river” and it is a sacred place of origin for many Dakota people. 72 miles of the river are even part of our National Park System, within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

From the northernmost headwaters in Lake Itasca to the Mississippi Delta, the health of this great river continues to be at risk.

Flooding and other extreme weather events, pollution, and runoff threaten the the river and surrounding communities. The health of the river is critical not just for the sake of the natural beauty, wildlife, and climate change-fighting capabilities of these resources, but for our economy and so our communities can thrive as well.

That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation that will establish the Mississippi River Resilience and Restoration Initiative (MRRRI). This initiative will coordinate efforts on conservation and environmental restoration along the entire river corridor and open up grant opportunities for state and local governments, tribes, and nonprofit organizations. The MRRRI Act authorizes new federal investments to:

  • Improve community resilience to climate change, and reduce flood risk by restoring floodplains, riverine wetlands, delta and coastal wetlands, and backwaters;
  • Improve drinking water quality in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico by reducing polluted runoff;
  • Protect and restore wildlife habitat and throughout the River corridor; 
  • Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in the River system; and
  • Make dedicated investments in those communities that have born the highest costs of environmental degradation.

MRRRI will follow the successful model of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to ensure coordinated and sustained federal investments to restore the Mississippi River and protect it as a healthy working river.

We all learned as children how to spell the “MISS-ISSI-PPI” – instilling in us the significance of this river. With MRRRI, we have the chance to ensure this resource remains a healthy and thriving resource for generations to come.

Betty McCollum Signature

 

Betty McCollum
Member of Congress 

 

Legislation

The Mississippi River Resiliency and Restoration Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency to work closely with other federal agencies, states, tribal nations, and local governments as well as non-governmental organizations to develop and coordinate the initiative, with these goals:

  • Protect our drinking water, wildlife, and river-dependent industries by reducing runoff pollution
  • Reduce flood and storm risks and increase community resilience through ecologically sound management
  • Protect and restore wildlife habitat, in part by preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

MRRRI would provide grants for restoration projects in river states, cities, townships, and tribal nations while prioritizing the most at-risk communities.

Find the full text of the bill here.

View a fact sheet here with more information.

Fiscal Year 2021 Interior-Environment Appropriations language can be found here.

 

Support and Testimonials

Original cosponsors of the MRRRI Act: Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03). Find the most updated list of cosponsors here.

This legislation is supported by a wide variety of groups and organizations up and down the Mississippi River corridor, including:

American Farmland Trust
American Federation of Government Employees – Local 704
American Rivers

American Sportfishing Association
Arkansas Wildlife Federation
Audubon Minnesota
Association of Minnesota Counties

Bird Conservation Network
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED)
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)
Clean River Partners (formerly Cannon River Watershed Partnership)
Clean Water Action Minnesota
Clean Wisconsin
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa
Conservation Federation of Missouri
Conservation Minnesota
DownRiver Alliance
Freshwater
Friends for Our Riverfront

Friends of Pool 2
Friends of the Falls
Friends of the Mississippi River

Friends of the Upper Mississippi
Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Great River Passage Conservancy
Green Lands Blue Waters
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Healthy Gulf 
Illinois Environmental Council
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Iowa Environmental Council

Izaak Walton League of America 
Izaak Walton League of America MN Division
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance

League of Conservation Voters
League of Minnesota Cities
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region ILO
Lower Mississippi River Foundation

Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Forestry Association
Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light
Minnesota Well Owners Organization (MNWOO)
Mississippi Park Connection
Mississippi River Network
Mississippi River Trust
Mississippi Valley Traveler
Mississippi Wildlife Federation
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Monarch Joint Venture
National Association of Counties
National Audubon Society
National Caucus of Environmental Legislators
National Great Rivers Research and Education Center
National League of Cities
National Marine Manufacturers Association

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
National Parks Conservation Association
National Wildlife Federation

Newport Citizens Organization
Openlands
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota
Prairie Rivers Network
Quapaw Canoe Company

Sierra Club (National)
Sierra Club Illinois Chapter
Sierra Club Missouri Chapter
Sierra Club North Star Chapter (Minnesota)

St. Paul Yacht Club
Stop Carp Coalition
Tennessee Environmental Council
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans
The Wetlands Initiative
Wild Ones Native Landscaping St. Croix Oak Savanna Chapter
Wild Rivers Conservancy of the St. Croix & Namekagon
Wilderness Inquiry

 

[List of endorsing organizations updated as of September 13, 2021]

 

 

“The Mississippi River and Lake Pepin are at the core of the 'GOOD' in Goodhue County, Minnesota. River transportation and commerce were the foundation of our prosperity, but the natural magnificence of the river valley is what has sustained us. Along with Agriculture, Industry, and History; Recreation is the fourth pillar in our County Seal. Clean water that is swimmable, fishable, and drinkable is absolutely vital for maintaining our river and its tributaries. I salute and encourage Congresswoman McCollum’s grand conservation plan for America’s Greatest River with the understanding that all natural things can be ruined by neglect. It is no secret that clean and accessible water will play a major role in a sustainable and prosperous future. The time to address that future is now!”

 -Goodhue County (MN) Commissioner Paul Drotos

 

“The Mississippi River is an environmental treasure, an economic corridor, and a place of recreation and enjoyment for all Minnesotans and Americans, in general.  We have a duty to preserve this vital resource and asset for future generations but must team up this passion with resources and hard work. As such, AMC appreciates and supports Congresswoman McCollum’s efforts to dedicate federal funds to preservation, water quality, flood prevention, and aquatic invasive species control  efforts. Congresswoman McCollum’s proposals allows local governments and communities to decide how best to respond to these shared priorities and needs and Minnesota counties fully support her efforts.”

-Ramsey County (MN) Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire (Second Vice President, Association of Minnesota Counties).

 

 

Additional Resources

  • Explore a curated list of photos and cultural resources from the Library of Congress here.
  • Learn about the Mississippi River from the National Park Service.
  • Share the message: digital toolkit for cosponsors or advocates.
  • Find a recent op-ed authored by Rep. McCollum and Friends of the Mississippi River’s Whitney Clark here.
“Now it was just sunset, and we crossed the Mississippi, slowly, over a long bridge. I looked out the window of the Pullman at the great muddy river flowing down toward the heart of the South, and I began to think what that river, the old Mississippi, had meant to Negroes in the past – how to be sold down the river was the fate that could overtake a slave in times of bondage. Then I remembered reading how Abraham Lincoln had made a trip down the Mississippi on a raft to New Orleans, and how he had seen slavery at its worst, and had decided within himself that it should be removed from American life…” 
-Langston Hughes, excerpted from “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

The Great River is the heartbeat of our nation – an important cultural keystone with which we all have a connection. It reminds us who we are and what we value. Let’s protect it.