Mississippi Mayors Push for Flood Resilience
Mayors from 18 cities and towns along the Mississippi River, stretching from Minnesota to Louisiana, are lobbying Congress and the Trump administration for a $6.85-billion package for priority infrastructure projects and programs that they say are necessary to address recurring floods in the Midwest.
Representatives of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a coalition of 95 mayors along the river, met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and administration officials in the first week of March to advocate for flood-related infrastructure upgrades.
The mayors are seeking to have elements of their proposal included in the next water resources development act or a new highway and transit reauthorization bill. Preliminary work on those measures has begun in the House and Senate.
The St. Louis-based coalition says the projects would address acute shocks and climate stresses, including floods, which have hit the region over the last several years, causing more than $205 billion in damages since 2005.
The Mississippi River group’s priorities include $100 million to create a revolving-loan program that cities and towns could use to help fund investment in resilience and disaster recovery.
Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the MRCTI, said the group’s meetings in Washington with lawmakers and administration officials had a theme of “action partnered with innovative financing.”
To that end, the MRCTI announced March 19 that New Orleans and Memphis had won their first resilience bond challenge. Quantified Ventures, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm partnered on the bond program with the mayoral group through grants from the Walton Family Foundation and the McKnight Foundation.
Eric Letsinger, founder and CEO of Quantified Ventures, said, “We’ve been financing a lot of resilience-related public projects around the country [with] municipal bonds, which is creating an opportunity for financing to come in to fund projects.”
New Orleans will receive $30 million and Memphis will get $13 million through the environmental-impact bond awards for use in infrastructure programs.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) said that through the Finance Authority of New Orleans, “We’ll be able to offer free mortgages.”
Memphis will focus its bond on financing a group of green infrastructure projects to reduce flooding. In September, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill to establish a federal resilience revolving-loan fund. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and backed by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) among others.