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Mississippi River Slowly Recedes in TN-Placed on Endangered List

May 18, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The swollen Mississippi has received a special mention as a "river at risk" in this year's newly released "Most Endangered Rivers" list. The report, issued by the group American Rivers, cites "outdated" flood-management strategies and over-reliance on levees as problems that contribute to flood damage.

As the Mississippi continues to swell further south, those in Tennessee are watching the water slowly seep back into its banks. Andrew Fahlund, American Rivers' senior vice president for conservation, says levees and floodwalls should be the last line of defense, not the only line of defense.

"What we really need to do is actually give the river more room to move, and better manage our landscape so that we protect things like wetlands, which act like sponges and absorb some of these floodwaters."

Nashville has made some positive strides since last year's floods by moving vulnerable structures out of harm's way and developing park land along the riverfront, Fahlund says, adding that the Mississippi needs structural flood protection such as levees in addition to natural defenses such as wetlands and floodplains that absorb floodwaters.

"That water that passes through a wetland is also cleaner, and it's also great habitat for duck hunters and fishermen. These are all things where communities can win many times over if we make those kinds of investments, instead of just investing in levees."

The Mississippi has been on the America's Most Endangered Rivers list eight times, with threats ranging from flood control to pollution. The full list is at americanrivers.org.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - TN