May 24, 2012 (TSR) – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and its partners will invest up to $31.83m in 2012 to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin.
The investments in financial and technical assistance will be used for five water quality and wetlands improvement projects in seven Mississippi River Basin states.
USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Through these projects, agricultural producers are voluntarily taking action to restore and protect wetlands on private lands in watersheds that USDA has identified as being critical to water quality restoration in the basin.”
In Arkansas, the Boeuf River Watershed project will receive about $2.1m from NRCS and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the Cache/L’Anguille will secure $214,748 from the agency and the Craighead County Conservation District.
The Cache River and Lower Whit-Bayou Des Arc wetlands restoration project in Arkansas will also receive about $3m from the Nature Conservancy and the agency.
Mississippi River Trust and NRCS will allocate nearly $20.2m to the Lower Mississippi River Batture hardwood forest and wetlands restoration project in the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Iowa will also recieve funds for its North Raccoon River Wetland Initiative, valued at $6.1m.
Upon implementation, the projects will prevent sediment and nutrients from entering waterways, decrease flooding and improve bird and fish habitat.
NRCS estimates that the investment will restore 11,400 acres to wetland habitat.
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in the United States; the longest is the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi. Taken together, they form the largest river system in North America. If measured from the head of the Missouri, the length of the Missouri/Mississippi combination is approximately 3,895 miles (6,270 km) long.
With its source Lake Itasca at 1475 feet (450 m) above sea level in Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota, the river falls to 725 feet (220 m) just below Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. The Mississippi is joined by the Illinois River and the Missouri River at Saint Louis, and by the Ohio at Cairo, Illinois. The Arkansas River joins the Mississippi in the state of Arkansas. The Atchafalaya River in Louisiana is a major distributary of the Mississippi.
The Mississippi drains most of the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, except for the area drained by the Great Lakes. It runs through, or borders, ten states in the United States — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana — before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) downstream from New Orleans. Measurements of the length of the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico vary, but the EPA’s number is 2,320 miles (3733 km). A raindrop falling in Lake Itasca would arrive at the Gulf of Mexico in about 90 days.
The river is divided into the upper Mississippi, from its source south to the Ohio River, and the lower Mississippi, from the Ohio to its mouth near New Orleans. The upper Mississippi is further divided into three sections: the headwaters, from the source to Saint Anthony Falls; a series of man-made lakes between Minneapolis and St. Louis; and the middle Mississippi, a relatively free-flowing river downstream of the confluence with the Missouri River at St. Louis.
A series of 27 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi, most of which were built in the 1930s, is designed primarily to maintain a 9 foot (2.7 m) channel for commercial barge traffic. The lakes formed are also used for recreational boating and fishing. The dams make the river deeper and wider but do not stop it. No flood control is intended. During periods of high flow, the gates, some of which are submersible, are completely opened and the dams simply cease to function. Below St. Louis the Mississippi is relatively free-flowing, although it is constrained by numerous levees and directed by numerous wing dams.
The mouth of the Mississippi River has shifted repeatedly over time. Since a canal was built in the early nineteenth century, the river has been seeking the Atchafalaya River mouth, some 60 miles (95 km) from New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a massive system of locks to keep the river in its present course.
City of Memphis also reached settlement with Feds to clean up sewer systems
The City of Memphis in the state of Tennessee has reached a settlement agreement with the federal government over alleged clean water violations last month.
The settlement requires the city to upgrade its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorised overflows of untreated raw sewage. Works are estimated to cost $250m.
As part of the consent decree, filed in US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis, a civil penalty of $1.29m, must also be paid.
The move follows a complaint filed by the federal government and the state of Tennessee in February 2010, which claimed the city endangered the health of residents and impaired local water quality with unauthorized raw sewage overflows.
The consent decree will require the city to implement a comprehensive fat, oil and grease programme to address the problem of grease buildup within the sewer lines.
A continuing sewer assessment and rehabilitation programme will also be required to ensure that the integrity of sewer infrastructure is appropriately maintained to prevent system failures, and will perform corrective measures in certain priority areas.
Memphis will make upgrades to its geographic information system and implement a color study to better delineate limits for the color of the city’s permitted discharges into the Mississippi River.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.