A newly signed partnership between the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and CDP North America will connect river resilience and development projects to investment opportunities.
The river initiative announced the five-year agreement two weeks ago in St. Louis during its annual conference meeting that aims to target and match investors with a minimum of 25 cities along the Mississippi River over that period.
"From a corridor perspective, the mayors have lots of different projects," initiative Executive Director Colin Wellenkamp said. "We asked the folks with all the money what are they looking for to cut through the tape and see if there is a greater appetite for where they want money to go. They all told us they are looking for projects that incorporate sustainability, which reduces risk and improves profit margin."
The river initiative is a organization comprised of 80 mayors up and down the Mississippi River that helps promote economic and environmental security throughout the river.
CDP, which was formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, warehouses the largest collection of corporate environmental data. Its supply chain members represent more than $2 billion in purchasing power.
Rather than rely solely on federal funding for disaster mitigation, which may or may not happen, the partnership allows cities to become more proactive in pursuing investment.
From a disaster mitigation and resilience perspective, river projects become a cheaper alternative to the devastation caused by natural disasters.
While Hurricane Katrina remains the most costly natural disaster at $110 billion in damage, more recent extreme weather events also have come with a hefty price tag.
St. Gabriel (Louisiana) Mayor Lionel Johnson, who was elected co-chair of the initiative along with Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch, said his city, which is near Baton Rouge, has sustained more than $10 billion in damage from flooding.
"Everything we've been talking about leads to one thing: infrastructure," Johnson said.
Johnson said through the hard-learned lessons with other disasters, the initiative has established some basic strategies:
• Make the recovery inclusive of all in need.
• Ensure an operable proportion of recovery funds actually goes to FEMA.
• Ensure that the recovery funds go to recovery and resilience, not other projects.
• Establish disaster recovery block grants to help localities recover long term.
• Establish a disaster recovery spending strategy with input from mayors, county executives and governors.
The projects sought by the organization also aim to help promote clean water and sustainable economies.
"Twenty million people are drinking the water out of the Mississippi," Klipsch said. "Nutrient loading affects water quality. We're not telling them what to do, but we want to help the industry become more sustainable."
Economies along the river generate more than $500 billion, stressing the need protect the valued resource.
Within Davenport, the needs are much different from what other cities and towns may need downstream.
In terms of riverfront development, Klipsch said, the partnership would help with establishing public-private partnerships, especially with Davenport keen on working on its expansive palette.
"Nine miles of riverfront gives us opportunity for other areas not being used," Klipsch said. "For our Main Street area, this is ideal timing."
In Louisana, Johnson identified three types of projects he was interested in seeing.
One was riverfront development that caters to recreation and education, without effecting ecology. Others pertain to levee protection and restoration.
Wellenkamp said another project that has been eyed in between is the creation of a retention lake in Helena, Arkansas, to reduce erosion.
Since the partnership was announced, projects have been identified where it appears the partnership will have no problem matching investors with projects, both on an annual basis and over the agreement's lifespan.
"It's not going to be hard to meet those targets," Wellenkamp said. "We already have 10 cities reporting projects."