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LMRD 783, Monday, June 15
The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Mississippi River"

Our recovery efforts 2016 and 2019 have been done from canoes, kayaks and paddleboards -- many of you helped us out -- including my wife and daughter. If you're womndering why Sarah is squinting her eyes and nose, The stench was awful.

June 15th

Today is my daughter's 13th birthday. She is the light of my life! Today is also deadline day for sending a letter. If you are so moved, do it. We are opposed to Yazoo Pumps. We prefer natural water systems that flow in the form and fashion of God's own graces. Man has his ambitions, but mother nature has her ways. And if pandemic has taught us anything, it is best to live life slower and simpler -- exercising patience and compassion, and letting it flow. We are all about flow. If you have a few minutes, today would be a good day to send a letter. You have until 12midnight. (If you're like me, you might do your best writing when the time is ripe! See below for mine.)

Please consider composing a letter to the attention of:
General Toy, and Colonel Hilliard,
and send to:
~~~June 15th is deadline for letters~~~

(My letter -- Compose your Own)

June 15, 2020

John Ruskey
Owner, Quapaw Canoe Company

Submitted via email to

Major General R. Mark Toy
Commander, Mississippi Valley Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
1400 Walnut Street
Vicksburg, MS 39180

Colonel Robert A. Hilliard
Commander, Vicksburg District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
4155 Clay Street, Room 248
Vicksburg, MS 39183

Dear General Toy, and Colonel Hilliard:

I am feeling heartfelt sympathy for all of those flooded out in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, and those who have suffered elsewhere across the drainage of our great river. I am one who has suffered loss in the flooding of the Big Sunflower. My business, the Quapaw Canoe Company, was almost destroyed. The Sunflower River almost ate us up in 2016. And yet I am opposed to the Yazoo Pumps Project, as I am opposed to reduction of wetlands and the natural access of our rivers to their surrounding floodplain wherever they may be.

I am writing to urge the USACE to abandon its efforts to resurrect the incredibly destructive and costly Yazoo Pumps. The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta has always been a unique place in the world. Geologically speaking, it's young. And yet it's incredibly rich. Not in the gold that Spanish explorer's sought. But in the rich sediment of the flooding river. Glacial mud created the land. Its forests supported a Garden of Eden populated by the original Mississippians. The Delta Blues was born here. It became the Cotton Kingdom. Teddy Roosevelt found the trees to be the largest in North America outside of the West Coast. Its writers and painters are world renowned.

In that spirit, why doesn't the Delta celebrate its unique character and qualities?

Instead of fighting the rejuvenation of floods, the Corps should instead prioritize effective and environmentally sustainable non-structural and natural and nature-based solutions that will provide multiple, lasting benefits to Mississippi Delta communities while protecting and restoring the region's rich natural resources.

We as humans tend to see things from our own islands, as if we are the only ones to feel pain and loss. We think we are alone in our suffering. But people all over the country (indeed the world) are suffering from the same consequences of excessive rainfall, storms, flooding and wetland connections cut up and severed from their bigger wholesome systems.

Our canoe company is actually located right on the banks of the Sunflower River. Our home base was flooded out in 2016 by catastrophic rainfall. So we know what that feels like. It hurts. You feel like your entire future is lost as the mud, farm runoff, and stormwater sewer secretions seep under your doors and through your plumbing, and take over your hard earned life and means of sustenance. We lost an entire business season struggling to recover. It was said to have been a 1,000 year flood event. We weren’t alone in this. Over 1,000 homes and businesses in the Delta suffered the same, and later that same year 160,000 in Baton Rouge. It required a small army of volunteers for us to evacuate, and then cleanup (we needed volunteers in addition to my staff, my family, my wife & daughter). We moved everything 30 feet higher out of the flood zone. We will never move back.

Some of our neighbors cleaned up, rebuilt, and then moved right back to original location. Many grew up and raised their children in these homes, so the attachments run deep. Unfortunately, they were flooded again in 2019 — in another “1,000 year flood.” If you live along the Sunflower River like us, you are now 2,000 years old, in river flood years!

The high-water stayed high well into 2020 for the people and farms of the Lower Delta. Like many landowners flooded out this year, and looking at loss of crop, or other business, we lost an entire guiding & outfitting season due to the flood. Yet unlike some landowners, we have moved out of the floodplain, and removed ourselves from future floods. We were able to do this, and remain intact, and continue serving our community, by moving 30 feet higher.

So in summary, I would encourage our neighbors across the entire valley to consider that option. To move out. Or get higher. Build on stilts. Move elsewhere and let the water flow where it wants to flow. Work with the river, don’t fight it. A flooding river enriches the lives of all living on it. Some of us accept the gifts what they are, and some of us don’t. Why not let it flow? Life would be so much easier that way. And simpler. And healthier. We’d be better prepared for pandemics like Covid-19. Life would be better all around if we accepted what God is giving us, with what the creator endowed us with.

If you live in the floodplain you are eventually going to get flooded. A healthy river needs room to flex its muscles, and then relax. In this vein, we are an advocates for wetlands, especially in public lands, and particularly in the promotion of biological diversity and naturally filtered, clean water, the kind that results from the ancient cycle of flood and fall. We strongly encourage sustainable bio-engineering methods such as notching dikes and reconnecting natural wetlands.

In conclusion, I am opposed to Yazoo Pumps. As an optimist, however, I do look forward to working with our friends, families and partners for increasing wetlands across the entire Mississippi River drainage, for a healthier and more balanced future to the benefit of our families, communities, region, and country. The river connects us all.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at the below.

Sincerely yours,

John Ruskey
Quapaw Canoe Company
291 Sunflower Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614

Seen above, the Quapaw Canoe Company home base flooded out in 2016; it happened again in 2019. So, two 1,000 year floods in 3 years. I am now 2,000 years old.... I feel like it too.

The view down the street from my parent's house in 2016 - when the Sunflower River crested around 25.5' on the Clarksdale gage. It crested not much lower in 2019. And this same house got flooded -- again.


1Mississippi River Citizen Program: River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America’s greatest River. Whether in armchairs or wading boots, River Citizens protect the River by speaking up on its behalf and caring for it in simple ways that make a big difference. Together, we can protect the River for future generations. Take the first step today and sign up for free as a River Citizen at 1Mississippi, can the River count on you?"



The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to and click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


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