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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 8 No 7a - July 9, 2012

1. Lower Mississippi River

Resource Assessment

Wednesday, July 11
4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Harbor Landing on Mud Island
101 North Island Drive
Memphis, TN 38103

The LMRRA is a collaborative project that involves the Corps of Engineers, with sponsorship from The Nature Conservancy, and the Great Rivers Partnership that includes partner entities: Mississippi River Corridor – Tennessee, Audubon Society, Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Delta Wildlife, Mississippi Wildlife and Quapaw Canoe Company. (see below for more information)

2. Opening Reception: Saturday July 14, 5-6:30pm in Helena, Arkansas -- Canoes & Paintings!

“John Ruskey: The Downstream Painter” now on exhibition at Helena, Arkansas’s Delta Cultural Center. Opens today July 3rd to run until Aug. 25th. This display features original watercolor paintings and hand-carved full sized wooden canoes featuring the KIPP Dugout Canoe -- which was completed in May 2012 after three years of hard carving by the students of the KIPP Delta College Prep School of Helena! Opening Reception Saturday July 14th 5-6:30pm (Helena’s Second Saturday to follow outside on Cherry Street!); KIPP Dugout Reception August 2nd 4-5:30pm honoring the students who carved the canoe!

3. Paddle with Purpose

The Mighty Quapaws have been nominated for the Canoe & Kayak Magazine 2012 Paddle with Purpose award, which goes to “the most-inspiring paddling effort, organization or expedition devoted to a philanthropic cause…”

Go now and vote at:

http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe-kayak-awards/vote/paddle-with-purpose/

4. Mark River

One of the newest Mighty Quapaws is Mark “River” Peoples.

Mark Twain... meet Mark River! In addition to being a great guy and a monster paddler (and serving as the 1Mississippi Southern Region intern) Mark River has another talent we will be sharing with you in upcoming editions of the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch. He is a talented writer with an ear for nature and poetry. Scroll down for Mark’s latest blog, “the Cycles of Life.”

5. Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is the single most important piece of legislation that impacts food and farms in the United States; it regulates and funds programs like crop insurance for farmers and nutrition, as well as conservation programs that help farmers improve soil and water health. Because more than 115 million acres are in some type of private agriculture production in the Mississippi River watershed, it is important to include sound conservation programs in the Farm Bill for the health of the River and our communities. (go to end of this email for more about the farm bill…)

Lower Mississippi River

Resource Assessment

Wednesday, July 11
4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Harbor Landing on Mud Island
101 North Island Drive
Memphis, TN 38103


The LMRRA is a collaborative project that involves the Corps of Engineers, with sponsorship from The Nature Conservancy, and the Great Rivers Partnership that includes partner entities: Mississippi River Corridor – Tennessee, Audubon Society, Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Delta Wildlife, Mississippi Wildlife and Quapaw Canoe Company.

The first of its kind, the study will cover portions of seven states in the Lower Mississippi River alluvial valley. Its purpose is to develop recommendations for 1) the collection, availability and use of information needed for river-related management; 2) the planning, construction and evaluation of potential restoration, protection and enhancement measures to meet identified habitat needs; 3) potential projects to meet identified river access and recreation needs.


The final study and list of recommendations will be released as a Corps of Engineers report to Congress.


Please plan to attend this important public meeting that will give citizens the opportunity to provide input for this unique Study and its recommendations to improve our quality of life in the Lower Mississippi River basin.

www.rivergator.org

The Mark River Blog:

The River Gator Low Water Expedition

The Cycles of Life

As I return from the most “aquatastic” exploration in the history of my river life, I could not believe I've had the opportunity to experience and acknowledge the picturesque landscape known to man. This was the inaugural run of the River Gator, 30 years in the making, and it was epic.

The ecologic scenery incredible, but distantly fleeting & remote to humans, because it changes daily and nightly as we replenish our bodies after a hard day paddling under the wild skies of the Lower Mississippi River Delta.

Last year at this time the Mississippi River was at flood stage, 50 feet higher. The miscellaneous islands, peninsulas, and sandbars were underwater, wildlife displaced and discarded, with only the animals with superior genetic instincts made it it to mainland. Many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes were literally swept away and missed a year of offspring and reproduction.

It was incredible to see the landscape usually covered with a perfect camouflaged medium for the complex conglomerate of living organisms the river hides without question. It make me recall one of my favorite classic rock songs," Horse With No Name", by America. The lyric, " The Ocean is a Desert with it's life underground, with a perfect disguise above", can be applied to freshwater also. When the river is at low water you can see the different levels of structure and landscape that's invisible 90 percent of the year. Most notable are land fields of various exposed petrified stumps and root balls, failed manmade structures, and large trees which provide habitat for various freshwater fish and invertebrates, making it challenging for predatory fish, and human accessibility. During low water, the cycle of life is booming: replenishing, restoring, and balancing ecological diversities . There are not many places were you can experience freshwater, desert, grasslands, and deciduous forest in the same natural canvas.

The Creator always gives us mammals and other creatures of nature what we need. As the waters recede, blue holes and freshwater springs hold stranded fish, mostly filter feeders, leaving a sushi smorgasbord for water snakes, raccoons, coyotes, turtles, and other beach combing predators looking for a easy meals. Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Cormorants stand side by side gorging themselves without any competitive instincts knowing there's plenty for all. Pelicans hover over shrinking holes gathering for there feast. Female Least Terns, on the verge of extinction, nest on sandbars while males bring them gifts of fish to win hearts. Kildeer nest on gravel beds at the confluences. Greater Yellowlegs and Fish Crows work the shorelines chasing small fish while the Belted Kingfisher dives with stealth from the air. Like there ocean cousins, Mississippi Map, Mud , and Redears use the exposed dunes to lay eggs during the evenings, risking lives for the next generations with owls, Kites, and Bald Eagles watching from above. Small rifts and runnels flow into the channel full of frogs chasing sandflies and other insects which attracts copperheads, cottonmouths, and various water snakes.

The channel narrows daily continuously exposing remembrance of the shallow seas that covered the landscape long ago. the carcass of ancient creatures create limestone deposits that filter the beautiful freshwater that we enjoy today. Rocks and mineral beds from tributaries such as St. Francis, White, and the Arkansas River collect at the confluences form gravel beds full of petrified mud, wood, and fossils from far as southeast Missouri and Leadville, CO. Skip Jack Herring seem to leap out of the water being chased relentlessly by large,stripped, hybrid, and white bass. Longnose and Alligator Gar wait patiently at the sloughs of the oxbow lakes emptying back into the channel dispersing schools of gizzard shad. Fishermen on the surface seeking the delicious flesh of the blue, channel, flathead, and spoonbill catfish with floating contraptions and underwater nets.

The oxygen production of the temperate deciduous forest of cottonwoods and black willows fill my lungs, cleansing my bloodstream, refreshing my soul, reinvigorating my mind, creating creative thought processes needed to decipher the cycle of life occurring before my eyes. It's great to be at top of the food chain. Orioles, Cardinals, Red-Wind Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Flycatchers, Oreo's, and Nuthatchers simultaneously pluck the forest canopy of insect nymphs like kabobs, while competing in song making the forest an orchestral collaboration. Wild turkeys exchange calls from the willows being perfectly camouflaged by the reflection of the sun off there translucent feathers. Deer tracts cover the grasslands and beaches foraging on new growth and wild greens. The beavers have plenty of food , but lack the protection of the receding, descending, evaporating river channel from predators.

I ponder our existence and position on the food chain as I sit admiring the geographical and geological settings at the mouth of the new channel the Arkansas River carved after the 2011 flood. As the cottonwoods and black willows make it snow in June, I process these cycles of life, the checks and balances that keep our environment and lives, stable and sustainable. The Quapaw's chose this region to settle. Maybe for the diverse habitat, or the cool evening Rocky Mountain breeze which accompanies the sunset, or the strong electromagnetic fields present when I step foot on this sacred landscape.

Probably, all the above, I just take it all in knowing next time will look different as the cycle of life never stops.

-Mark River

Note: go visit the paddler’s guide to the Lower Mississippi River -- now live at www.rivergator.org

5. Farm Bill


The United States Senate should be applauded for its bi-partisan work in passing the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (Farm Bill).

While not perfect—what is?—there are programs in the bill that help protect, preserve and restore our waterways.

This is particularly important to the Mississippi River Network (MRN) and its 42 member organizations. MRN is a coalition of organizations working together from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico to protect the land, water and people of America’s greatest River.

The Farm Bill is the single most important piece of legislation that impacts food and farms in the United States; it regulates and funds programs like crop insurance for farmers and nutrition, as well as conservation programs that help farmers improve soil and water health. Because more than 115 million acres are in some type of private agriculture production in the Mississippi River watershed, it is important to include sound conservation programs in the Farm Bill for the health of the River and our communities.

We call upon the members of Congress Rick Crawford, Tim Walz, Reid Ribble Steve King, Leonard Boswell, Bobby Schilling, Randy Hultgren, Tim Johnson, Vicky Hartzler, and Scott DesJarlais, who sit on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, to keep in mind that conservation of our soil and water is a high priority for all of society. As the Committee begins to mark up its version of a Farm Bill, conservation programs need to be included.

Particularly important to reducing agricultural pollution in our rivers is continuing the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Waters Initiative. This Initiative does great work through Regional Partnerships administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. It is critical that Regional Partnerships are included in the House Farm Bill so existing partnerships can continue their important efforts.

Wetland restoration is another critical piece of the Farm Bill. The restoration of wetlands in floodplains helps reduce soil run off and helps clean water before it enters our rivers. The Senate Farm Bill has consolidated USDA easement programs and has ensured that wetland restoration is an important component of that program. That needs to be reinforced in the House Farm Bill.

Because American taxpayers fund the Farm Bill, provisions need to be in place to help ensure our tax dollars are invested wisely to reduce pollution and protect our rivers. The Senate version of the Bill includes a provision that requires farmers to use conservation methods in order to receive taxpayer-funded support. This requirement, which had been required since the 1985, but was stripped from the 1996 Farm Bill, prevents farmers from using tax payer money to pollute our rivers. Technical support is available from USDA to help farmers get in compliance.

Funding for conservation practices in the farm bill has decreased every year since the 2008 farm bill took effect; linking conservation to crop insurance subsidies is a wise investment of taxpayer dollars.

The Senate stepped up and completed its Farm Bill; it is time for the House to do the same. The current Farm Bill expires September 30; the time is now for the House to complete its work on the Farm Bill.

(From the Mississippi River Network. Go to www.1mississippi.org for more information)