Natchez Mayor talks river, Delta in Memphis

Published 12:04am Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Mayor Butch Brown is traveling to Memphis this week to meetings of two groups focused on maximizing the resources of the Mississippi River and the Delta region.

Brown has back-to-back meetings this week of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus. Brown is a member of both groups.

MRCTI is a a mayoral-led effort to create a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River that began last year.

Brown said he is chairing a panel at the MRCTI Mississippi River Economy Summit about the economic impact of container-on-barge shipping on the Mississippi River.

“I’ll be speaking on that and other new initiatives that could really transform the use of the Mississippi River,” he said.

MRCTI is partnering with the Delta Regional Authority to host the summit, which will feature discussions on infrastructure integrity, better alignment of investment and creation of links of global trade to communities.

“We hope that something comes out if that will spur more movement of freight using containers rather than bulk cargos,” Brown said. “It could be a real, real boom for the river. Transportation costs are just going up, up, up, so that it’s not economically feasible to ship. Barge freight is more economical and feasible.”

The completion of the Panama Canal expansion project, which is scheduled to be finished in 2014 or 2015, could also have a significant impact on the Mississippi River and its communities, Brown said.

The project is expected to double the capacity of the canal by adding a new lane of traffic and allowing more ships and bigger ships to travel.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders throughout the eight-state Delta region, which stretches from southern Illinois to New Orleans. The caucus’ members are elected officials, from county supervisors and mayors to state officials.

“We will be talking about everything from re-licensing the Delta Queen to shipments, initiatives for education, nutrition, farming and manufacturing,” Brown said. “It’s all about how to utilize the assets of the region and bring those results closer to the people.”