Flyover: Down the Mississippi River | Minnesota Public Radio News

Flyover: Down the Mississippi River

MPR News and The Water Main asked residents of the Mississippi River region about what connects them to the river, and what worries them.

    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?

    "I have lived my entire life within 10 miles of the Mississippi. It is as much of me as an artery of blood. I know people who live in true river towns who make a point of seeing the river at least once a day, even if just to drive by it. I don't make it once a day, but at least once a week I drive the seven miles I need to travel to see the river. I can't explain why. I have a cousin who grew up in California, served in the Coast Guard in the Aleutians, was a harbor master in San Francisco Bay--and he gave it all up to be a river pilot on the Mississippi. Go figure."
    — Robert Brown, St. Charles, Missouri
    What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Mississippi River in the area where you live?

    The biggest issues in the Mississippi River Basin are the numerous exemptions and exceptions that are allowed under almost all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. This is not just a Louisiana problem but a national and international problem. The major government actors are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. and state departments of agriculture.
    — William Fontenot, Louisiana 
    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?
    It has been the most meaningful waterway in my life, having grown up in St. Louis and now living by the river gorge in South Minneapolis. I have organized or participated in a number of public art projects along and and above the river (going back to 1976), and participated in several river-related seminars, etc.  (Sidebar: I plan to have my ashes poured in the river after my death, to blend in and travel its length and reconnect me in a way that is impossible during my lifetime.
    — Jack Becker, St. Paul, Minnesota
    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?
    Positively: it beautifies the landscape, it connects our communities and states socially and economically, it provides recreation, it is a source of community pride (the headwaters is in my home state of Minnesota). Negatively: the river is sweeping away the soil that drives our agricultural economy (dirt is gold where I live). The river is destroying the habitats downstream, especially in the delta region, due to soil and pollutant transfers from upstream runoff.
    — Terry Wing, Minneapolis, Minnesota 
    What do you wish other people knew about the Mississippi River, either where you live or more generally?
    Everything you take out on the river needs to leave with you. Tossing cans, bags, cigarette butts, and other trash is a horrible practices. We used to have an annual river clean up in Winona but that lost momentum. We need to bring that back! Also, a river is supposed to change and evolve. We have had residents try to change the sandbar island that develop in the river because it was one they played on as a child. Well, the river is supposed to change and adapt and we need to recognize that.
    — Nicole Schossow, Hastings, Minnesota
    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?
    I live a few hundred feet from the east bank of the great gorge near the Ford Bridge in St. Paul, and it is by the far the most valuable resource and contributor to quality of life and property value in my neighborhood.
    — Dane Smith, St. Paul, Minnesota
    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?
    My Dad grew up on a farm along the Mississippi river in SW Wisconsin. I still have 30+ first cousins, most who live close by or in the small town closest to the farm. Many times we drove down there all my life. I still go there at least for the annual family reunion. I only have one relative who is still milking cows and the recent economic conditions seem to be putting that family out of business. At least one cousin seems to lose a crop every year due to flooding from heavy rain storm.
    — Mary Uppena, Rochester, Minnesota
    In what ways does the river play a role in your life?
    Visually—to me it’s a symbol of ancient roots and our human impermanence. The river has been here for millennia serving humanity and the earth. It continues even when we disrespect and abuse it. It’s beauty and power awe me.
    — Maxine Bergh, St. Paul, Minnesota
    What do you wish other people knew about the Mississippi River, either where you live or more generally?
    I think it's important for people all up and down the river to remember that it's a lot bigger than the part we see - that what we do up here can potentially affect the Gulf of Mexico.
    — Melissa Casey, Minnesota
    I can’t get over those pollutants we call “emerging contaminants,” which have been “emerging” for 30+ years. They’re really just pollutants we don’t know how to manage or what to do with. So, we brush these issues, these “canaries in the coal mine” aside in our thoughts, plans and actions. So easy to do.

    — John Wells, Eagan, Minnesota
    Since so many communities depend on the river for drinking water, I hope the governmental bodies charged with care of the river do all they can to maintain a healthy watershed.
    — Jacqueline Prince, Edina, Minnesota
    How does our action here impact people and ecology elsewhere? As our water flows (eventually) to the Gulf of Mexico, what can we do--small or large--to improve those conditions.” “I enjoy having such an iconic landmark so close by. Everyone has heard of the Mississippi, and I rarely think much about having it nearby--it's easy to take for granted even though I'm often driving across or along it.
    — Carina Aleckson, Minneapolis 
    How do you get people to care for the Mississippi River? People talk about it as one of the world's greatest rivers, but they don't treat it that way. If they don't care about it, pollution, climate change and other issues don't matter. Some people need to know how what we do to it will or will not affect their pocketbook. When asked to give up something because it is Great River, they want it to be great somewhere else.
    — John Anfinson, St. Paul, Minnesota. John is superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
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