The Mississippi River is an icon of our nation that conjures up images from the pages of Mark Twain. Yet at the same time, the river has been a target for industrial waste that basically choked the life out of the river. Now, forty years after passage of the Clean Water Act, it is time to find out just how healthy our mighty Mississippi is today.
The National Park Service manages 72 miles of the river known as the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which cuts through the Twin Cities down to Hastings, Minnesota. The Park Service teamed up with the Friends of the Mississippi River and released today the State of the River Report, which examines the status and trends of 13 key indicators of the river’s health and water quality, as well as the river’s viability for recreation, fish, and wildlife. The goal of this report is to document the current state of the river and identify key strategies that have been effective at improving its health and water quality so that we can continue to make progress going forward. The report is accompanied by two guides that identify actions individuals and policymakers can take to continue to make improvements to the river. Major findings include:
- Elevated levels of mercury and other elements have compromised the healthfulness of fish caught in the river.
- Excessive bacteria have impaired some sections of the river.
- More water is flowing into the river than before, bringing pollution and destabilizing the watershed.
- Invasive populations of Asian carp continue to spread and threaten native aquatic life.
Not all the findings are negative. Bald eagles, mussels, and fish are thriving, for example, indicating that river restoration has had a positive impact on some wildlife. To read the full report, visit the new State of the River website.