WASHINGTON D.C. â€“ . Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined government, industry and environmental leaders in Washington to call for a comprehensive and cooperative approach to Mississippi River governance and sustainability.
â€œEveryone has a stake in seeing the Mississippi River remains viable,â€ said Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, chair of the stateâ€™s Mississippi River Coordinating Council. â€œWe believe the best way to accomplish that is to build on existing public-private partnerships and develop a multi-state governance structure that allows for the integration of the riverâ€™s diverse users.â€
Simon spoke at the final The Big River Works forum dedicated to the future of the Mississippi River and convened by the Americaâ€™s WETLAND Foundation. Chaired by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, The Big River Works Initiative brought together leaders from government, the environment, industry and communities at five regional forums since 2012 to create a cooperative path forward for Mississippi watershed sustainability.
More than 400 participants attended the leadership forums held along the river in cities from Minneapolis to New Orleans. The findings revealed a number of common concerns and beliefs among the riverâ€™s many users. Representatives from every level of government, business and industry agreed the Mississippi River system must be managed as a single ecosystem, or it will continue to deteriorate, jeopardizing the benefits it provides nationwide.
The Big River Works forums generated four overarching recommendations released today in the nationâ€™s Capitol:
- Develop a comprehensive approach to Mississippi River health and sustainability
- Encourage cooperative action for Mississippi River system health and sustainability
- Coordinate a national approach to Mississippi Watershed governance
- Engage the public to build political will
â€œThese aims represent consensus thinking developed through research, focus groups, interviews and months of conversations,â€ said R. King Milling, chairman of the AWF. â€œThey are ambitious, but so is the scope of action necessary to maintain the long-term health and productivity of the Mississippi River and its delta. We are running out of time.â€