MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Mayors of cities along the Mississippi River say the 'Old Muddy' has been the victim of neglect and Mother Nature.
Record floods last year caused big troubles. Record drought this year caused new troubles.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is now in charge of an executive board that will come up with ways to keep Old Man River rolling along. He just returned from an important meeting about the river in St. Louis.
More than 18 million people get their drinking water from the Mississippi. If you've ever spent any time on its banks you've seen all the barges transporting all sorts of materials up and down. The river is a critical part of the country's and the Mid-South's economy.
Don't forget all the other cities that line the Mississippi River. Memphis is here because of the river, and so are all the other cities and towns that line its banks.
Nature hasn't been too kind to the river, however. Floods and drought shut down various sections of the waterway. That's caused slowdowns in barge traffic, and in some sections, all river traffic was shut down. The closings affect roughly one million people who make their living on the river, so the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative was formed.
Mayor A C Wharton spoke with abc24.com on the troubles the mayors met and discussed in St. Louis.
"Last year this time we had a 25 year flood event. Here we are this year with historic drought levels. So it appears that the abnormal on the river now becomes the normal and each year we just have to go along on an ad hoc basis, 'What are we going to do this year? What are we going to do next year?'" he said. "What is missing is we don’t have a set pool of funds to maintain the river, particularly when it comes to dredging. We never know precisely where we're going to get the funds."
Clearly dredging is important but there's no budget for it. That's why next March, Mayor Wharton will head up the group of 110 mayors to Washington and request federal funding to maintain the nation's biggest waterway for commerce.