Barricades block flooded Main Street in Grafton, Ill., Monday, near its intersection with Illinois Route 3 along the flooding Mississippi River. (AP Photo/The Telegraph, John Badman)
The erosion of the MIssissippi River delta in Louisiana might not seem like Chicago's problem, but a group of environmentalists was in town last week for The Big River Works leadership forum to argue it is.
Chicago has substantial commercial barge traffic that connects to the Mississippi, and much of the rest of the state uses the river to ship its grain, they said. But rapid erosion of the delta - the largest loss of land on the planet - is threatening New Orleans' port, and if that goes, Illinois will lose significant access to world markets, they said.
"Our interest ... is to connect the lower and upper river and to sort of encourage a constituency of river people because the river is in such a deplorable state," Val Marmillion, managing director of America's WETLAND Foundation, said. "Illinois ... cargo moves down from Illinois and particularly the Chicagoland area and exits south of New Orleans, which is the largest port system in the world."
Mark S. Davis, director and senior research fellow of the Tulane University Law School's Institute on Water Resources, Law and Policy, said numerous competing interests conspire to create conflict in a river system that covers 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
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