River city mayors hope collective strength will bring results

Published 10:05 am Friday, September 16, 2016

Mayors with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative ended a three-day conference in Natchez Wednesday calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve its grants and assistance programs and supporting a return of barge container shipping on the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is an organization composed of mayors from 124 cities and towns along the Mississippi.

The organization’s priorities include: river water quality and habitat restoration, state coordination around river management and improvement, more impactful water conservation measures, sustainable economies and a celebration of the river culture and history.

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MRITI’s request to FEMA to improve the application program for disaster resources and update its programs to allow broader multi-state projects to meet climate change at the scale it is happening and help cities and towns along the Mississippi, comes in the wake of severe flooding in December and January, which affected many cities and towns along the Upper Mississippi Valley south to New Orleans.

In Vicksburg and Warren County, severe flooding forced city and county officials to close off roads and evacuate residents living in the flooded areas. In the city the Ford’s Subdivision, Kings community and Chickasaw areas were among the hardest hit. Flooding also cut off access to the Eagle Lake community through Miss. 465, forcing residents there to take a longer route.

Local governments in the past have complained about the regulations, paperwork and length of time required to get FEMA assistance.

“I think what this organization is about is how they can maximize the strength of FEMA and our congressional delegations,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “So when we talk, we talk collectively.

Flaggs said the push toward returning container barge movement to the inland waterways something that will help Vicksburg in the future. I support the initiative.”

According to a press release from the initiative, restoring container traffic to the river has been a priority of the organization. The move would allow barges to carrying containers to inland ports along the river. The release designated three river ports — New Orleans, Memphis, Tenn., Baton Rouge, La., and — St. Louis and for development as barge container ports, but Flaggs believes Vicksburg could soon be in the mix.

“That could be very helpful to us, especially with us trying to benefit from the Continental Tire plant (near Clinton),” Flaggs said. “If all this can become a reality, we’ll be one of the biggest benficiaries on the Mississippi River. It coincides in the direction of the (Warren County) port commission. It gives us a pathway on the way to economic development.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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