Copeland attends forum

Published 12:03 am Thursday, September 13, 2012

VIDALIA — Mayor Hyram Copeland knows a thing or two about the Mississippi River.

So when a meeting was organized for mayors from the 10 states and more than 100 cities that border the Mississippi River, Copeland said he jumped at the chance to participate.

“They probably couldn’t ask for anyone who has had more experience with the river than we had,” Copeland said. “We had the flood last year and a drought and hurricane this year, so we’ve got some experiences to share.”

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The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is having its inaugural meeting at a two-day event this week in St. Louis to discuss the long-term well being of the river and the communities it borders.

The Northeast-Midwest Institute created the initiative from a $250,000 grant through the Walton Family Foundation.

“The MRCTI will give a common voice to those who depend most upon the river, and by virtue of doing so, will span political and economic interests,” said director Colin Wellenkamp in a press release. “That is, it will tap a natural source of the longed-for integration of transportation, farming, industrial, municipal and environmental interests to launch lasting solutions to river management issues.”

The event will feature more than 20 mayors — including Copeland — attempting to captivate state and federal officials to work together.

“One of the goals is create a network with all of these agencies,” Copeland said. “All of these municipalities have faced economic impacts from the river, so we can all share experiences and learn from each others’ situations.”

The gathering comes during one of the worst droughts in recent memory, with low water on the Mississippi River continuing to affect river traffic and recreation.

Copeland will moderate a meeting today titled, “Floods and droughts: mitigating, insuring and developing in their path.”

“It’s an honor to be invited to this seminar and to be asked to moderate the meeting,” Copeland said. “We’ve got some issues going on in Vidalia that we can discuss with mayors from up and down the river.”

Also participating in that meeting will be Sandra Knight with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Chad Berginnis with State Floodplain Managers and Jasper Grant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Other meetings vary from topics such as “Rural/urban development within the Mississippi River” to “City/state partnerships for the river.”