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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Vol 9 No 8a, Tuesday, August 6 2013

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Mark River Blog

River Gator Chronicles

Lower Mississppi River Resource Assessment (LMRRA)

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation and Quapaw Canoe Company sent a full staff to attend the Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment meeting in Helena, Arkansas, to discuss fish and wildlife needs and the recreational needs along the lower Mississippi River. Before this meeting , I had conversation with local river citizens on questions and concerns involving our great River. Since many locals couldn't attend, I took it upon myself to give them a voice.

The Quapaw Canoe Company/Lower Mississippi River Foundation representatives were Driftwood John Ruskey, Oscar “Ojay” Donaby, Chris" Wolfie" Staudinger, and myself, Mark River. Many of our concerns where river access for the public. The Corps had maps of our section of the River from Memphis to Vicksburg with markers so we could put our suggestions and thoughts on the maps. They also had aerial photos of the surrounding area, which Driftwood used to quiz us testing our river knowledge.

We didn't hesitate. Driftwood started out marking various suggested areas where boat ramps would be convenient for river enthusiasts. Places like the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi River. He also brought attention to a debris blockage along a back channel in the Memphis area that we discovered and portage over during the Rivergator trip from Caruthersville to Memphis. Two of our strongest suggestions were to make Big Island a protected parklands and a reminder to save Cottonwood Island for public use.

Many locals from the Clarksdale area expressed their concern for the Desoto Lake community. Apparently, twenty years ago, there was a northern chute called "Sam White" that was accessible during high water, which created a world class fishery at Desoto Lake. The locals recalled during the spring rise it would clean and restock the lake for the summer. It flooded the bottomland forest of cottonwoods and willows creating prime spawning for all species of fish, especially bass and crappie. The land was bought by a wealthy man who had the money and political power to dam the northern chute to build a series of hunting camps. The locals have seen a decrease in numbers of fish and declining water levels every since. One local told me that people from all parts of the state would come fish and boost the economy around the lake. In recent years the family has sold the property and the locals want to remove the dam a restore a world class fishery.

The staff was very informative on the checks and balances of the river, the importance of it's overall systemic health and how vital it is to the introduction of the next generation of river citizens. I had a very interesting talk with new River Citizen, Jay Sherrod. He is the assistant to congressman Rick Crawford and is terrified by the idea of the navigating the River in a canoe.

I answered every one of his fears and by the end of the conversation he felt closer and more comfortable with the River.

Julia, the tourism director, looked at me and said, "what do you know, Mark River selling the River -- as always!"

I reply, "facts only!"

Throughout the meeting, I realized how important the partnerships between the Corps, the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, the LMRF, the Quapaw Canoe Company, 1Mississippi, and all the other groups are to the communicating factors in bringing all the Big River's issues to the forefront. It is up to us to bring these issues from our meetings locally to engage all walks of life in our fight for a healthier, sustainable Mississippi River for generations to come. Please make the Mississippi River a priority in your life and become a River Citizen today.

-Mark River

Mark River is a Big River guide and teacher with the Quapaw Canoe Company, and serves as the Southern Region intern for 1Mississippi.

*Please Note: The last of three public meetings for the Lower Mississippi River Assessments is tomorrow evening in St. Francisville, Louisiana (4-7pm, Wed, August 7th, St. Francisville, Louisiana). Paddlers please attend or your voice will not be heard!

See below for more details:

The Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment partners have set three public meetings on the recreation and habitat assessments, starting July 30 in Dyersburg, followed by August 1 in Helena and followed by August 7 in St. Francisville. We have created a page with all the details: http://www.lmrcc.org/public-input-sought-on-lower-mississippi-river-study/ .

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Quapaw Canoe Company and other partners will host three public meetings this summer on fish and wildlife habitat needs and outdoor recreation needs along the Lower Mississippi River. The meetings are associated with the Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment, the first comprehensive natural resources study of the region in 40 years. When completed, the study will be presented to Congress, along with recommendations for habitat improvement projects, as well as projects related to river recreation and access needs for fishing, paddling, cycling and other activities.

For more information about the public meetings or the assessment, contact Marsha Raus, Memphis District Corps of Engineers, at Marsha.L.Raus@usace.army.mil

or 901-544-3455.

Mississippi River Island

Up for Sale

Some potentially exciting news for the Lower Mississippi River: 1262 acre Cottonwood Island is up for sale.

Cottonwood is a beautiful mid-channel Mississippi River Island located near Transylvania, Louisiana (in between Greenville & Vicksburg) about 15 miles north of Tallula, at river mile 470. An important stopover for migrating songbirds and waterfowl, Cottonwood teems with deer, wild turkeys and wild boar and other typical (and invasive) species. It creates habitat for turtles, snakes, river otters and beaver. Its back channel is an important fish hatchery for natives like the pallid sturgeon and needle-nose gar. Some forests, some sandbars, and some grasslands. It’s a triangular-shaped island of similar proportions to Helena's Buck Island -- which was saved at auction and is now a public use island in the good hands of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

Cottonwood is on the Louisiana side of the river, but is actually considered Issaquena County, Mississippi... One of those islands isolated by the ever-changing Mississippi! Cottonwood could become another island for youth paddlers, youth hunters, youth fishermen -- as an all-around public use island.

Cottonwood could be an important addition to the hop-scotch trail of public islands already preserved on the Lower Miss (Hickman Bar, Choctaw Is. and Buck Is.). The Lower Miss is 95% private, but efforts are underway to create more public use... and Cottonwood could be the next step in that trend... Or Not! It could also be locked up behind the gates of the next high-end hunting camp.

Just think of all the school groups, KIPP kids, Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scouts, church youth groups, families, and all the others who could benefit from an exotic island destination like this? From photos you can't decide if you're in the Carribean, the Atchafalaya or the Serenghetti! There is a Boat launch on back channel side (near the Bunge Goodrich Terminal). Outdoors enthusiasts wouldn’t have to cross the dangerous towboat traffic of the main channel to access. (Similar situation found on Choctaw Island & Buck Island). There is a very WILD Arcadia Point sandbar archipelago of islands found on opposite shore.

Exciting possibilities. Let's save Cottonwood Island for the next generation of Mississippians, Arkansasans & Louisianans... The Mighty Quapaws, our sons & daughters... As well as all Americans... And all nature-tourists from abroad who paddle the length of the Mississippi... or come to the Ark-La-Miss specifically to touch and experience the biggest river in North America!

For the real estate listing, go to: www.sartainsheritage.com/cottonwood-bar-1262-ac-island-mississippi-river/

Write back for details, or stay tuned for more information about saving Cottonwood Island!

Proposed Expansion:

White River National Wildlife Refuge

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to enhance conservation in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley by expanding the White River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and improving connections with 4 National Wildlife Refuges, 10 State Owned Wildlife Management Areas, 4 State Owned Natural Areas, US Army Corps of Engineers lands, Arkansas Post N.M., and private conserved lands.

White River NWR currently covers approximately 160,756 acres held in fee with an approved acquisition boundary of 172,457 acres. This proposal would expand the current acquisition boundary of White River NWR to include an additional 125,349 acres surrounding and south of the White River NWR.

When combined with the current White River NWR acquisition boundary, this project seeks to protect a total of 297,806 acres both east and west of the White River and south of the mouth of the Arkansas River at the Mississippi River. If this proposal is approved, the refuge would be authorized to purchase lands within the expanded boundary only from willing sellers as funding allows.

For more information in a printable format, download the White River Expansion Brochure: http://www.fws.gov/whiteriver/WhiteRiverExpansionFinal.pdf

Timeline:

August 2012 - May 2013: Preliminary information-gathering meetings with government agencies and public officials and key partners within the proposed expansion area.

May 2013 – June 2013: Public scoping period, including three public meetings.

July 2013: Develop Draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment along with associated NEPA documentation for Public review and comment.

August 2013: Public comment period, including possible public meeting.

September - October 2013: Develop final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment along with associated NEPA documentation.

Winter 2013-14: Decision by the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Please send questions or comments to Tina Chouinard:

Mail: Tina Chouinard, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 49 Plainsbrook Place, Jackson, TN 38305

Email: Whiteriverexpansion@fws.gov

Fax: 731-664-1566

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

brought to you courtesy of the:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation

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