Forty years after the passage of the federal Clean Water Act, a report recently issued by the Friends of the Mississippi and the National Park Service found that while the overall status of the Mississippi River is improving in some ways, there remain some serious reasons for concern.
Created with the assistance of thirty scientific and technical advisors, the goal of the report is to create a benchmark from which to base future studies. While this is the first comprehensive look of its kind at the river, the researchers were able to identify a couple of sources for optimism, as well as some areas of concern.
Specifically they cited positive trends in bald eagle, mussel and fish populations along the river as examples of improving river health. But conversely, the increase of sediments, phosphorus and bacteria in some sections could jeopardize the aquatic habitat, as well as the recreational usability of the river.
The report also found that increased flow rates are destabilizing the watershed and sending increased volumes of pollution into the river. Nitrate concentrations are increasing rapidly and the threat of Asian Carp reaching the upper reaches of the river could have dramatic impacts on the overall usability of the river.
In addition to the report itself, the organizations also issued companion guides to build on the findings of the report.
The stewardship guide provides suggestions for individuals on how they can work within their communities to improve the health of the river. The Policy Guide makes recommendations to elected officials on the local, state and federal level on what they can be doing to help protect the river.
The full state of the river report, as well as the policy and stewardship guides are available at www.stateoftheriver.com.