erosion by bridge

Bill Parchert, a Rock Island County farmer, stands on a bridge over Copperas Creek that is the focus of a nutrient reduction project undertaken by the Rock Island County Soil & Water Conservation District. The project will be one of the topics of discussion at the 11th annual Upper Mississippi River Conference in Moline on Oct. 24-25.

Improving flood resiliency in our communities and sustaining all the benefits the Mississippi River provides will be the focus of the 11th annual Upper Mississippi River Conference to be held Oct. 24-25 in Moline.

The annual event is sponsored by River Action Inc., Davenport.

Presentations will touch on agriculture, manufacturing, navigation, tourism, the environment and flood control in the Mississippi watershed, which is all the land — all or part of 31 states — that is drained by the river. While aimed at people who work in these areas, the conference also is open to anyone concerned about these issues.

A special feature will be the inclusion of a Quad-Cities Flood Resiliency Alliance workshop, targeting area floodplain managers, city planners and administrators, emergency management personnel, public works directors.

Inspired by how a similar alliance worked elsewhere, River Action is convening the workshop to encourage area cities and towns to begin, or continue, watershed planning to reduce flood insurance costs and to mitigate flood damage. Discussion of funding options for pre-disaster mitigation and other flood damage prevention activities will be included.

For something a little different, but related, there will be presentations by Mary Miss, a New York artist known for her large, on-site public art installations. She believes artists can play a role in probing the complex issues of our time. Making environmental and social sustainability into tangible experiences (through art) is a primary goal.

The conference also will examine water projects going on in the Quad-Cities such as the city of Rock Island's rain garden program for residents, Carbon Cliff's permeable streets project and a nutrient reduction project in the Copperas Creek watershed in Rock Island County. Nutrient reduction refers to reducing nitrate runoff from farm fields into streams and rivers. The Copperas project undertaken by the county's soil and water conservation district includes stream bank stabilization, cover crops on the land that hold and build soil and a saturated buffer near the stream bank.

A representative of the Green Island Levee and Drainage District near Bellevue, Iowa, will discuss a nutrient monitoring project.

A member of The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization, will discuss which floodplains are most important in restoring the health of the Mississippi River basin.

And there also will be a panel discussion titled "Flooding? What Flooding?" with the subtitle of "Forward Thinking Communities Learn to Live With the River, Not Fight the River."

This touches on the longstanding discussion in the Quad-Cities as to why Rock Island (and other communities) has a flood wall and Davenport does not.

The two-day conference also includes a catfish dinner and entertainment by storyteller  Brian "Fox" Ellis.

Topics and main speakers include:

• What did we and the world learn from the Great Flood of 1993? by Gerry Galloway, University of Maryland

• National flood policy: Where are we today and where are we Going? by Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers

• Regional flood coalitions, a local level approach, by Mike Sutfin, a building and zoning official of Ottawa, Illinois, and a member of the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance.

• Integrated Water Resources Management, by Col. Bryan Sizemore commander of the St. Louis District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

River Action is a nonprofit organization that strives to foster the environmental, economic and cultural vitality of the Mississippi River and its riverfront in the Quad-City region.

Part of what the group and conference seek to do is to "help people understand just how critical the upper Mississippi River region is to the economic, social and environmental health of the entire nation," Kathy Wine, executive director, said.

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