St. Louis, MO -- along the Mississippi River | Photo by Carl J. Elitz
St. Louis, MO -- along the Mississippi River | Photo by Carl J. Elitz

#1: Upper Mississippi River

Threat: Climate change, poor floodplain and watershed management

Outdated flood management puts public health and safety at risk


The upper Mississippi River is critical to the nation’s economy and is a globally significant ecosystem. However, climate change is driving more intense rain storms, leading to more frequent and prolonged flooding in the Upper Midwest. This new reality puts people, habitat and infrastructure at risk—and communities along the upper Mississippi are dangerously unprepared. These risks are greatly exacerbated by two centuries of shortsighted floodplain—and watershed—development decisions that are cutting the river off from hundreds of thousands of acres of its floodplain, dangerously constricting the upper Mississippi River, and degrading vital fish and wildlife habitat.

Fortunately, extensive opportunities exist to restore the river so that it can safeguard communities and critical infrastructure. State and federal agencies should take full advantage of these opportunities by developing a basin-wide water management framework that coordinates river and watershed management actions, ensures vulnerable communities are involved in the decision-making process, accounts for climate change, gives rivers room to flood safely and restores lost habitat.

American Rivers appreciates the collaboration and efforts of our partners:

  • Prairie Rivers Network
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment
  • Great Rivers Habitat Alliance
  • Izaak Walton League of America
  • Friends of the Mississippi River
  • Mississippi River Network
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club