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Posting a Quad City Times Article : Advocating a New Vision for River Connection

September 18, 2011Patrick NunnallyProgram & AnnouncementsComments Off on Posting a Quad City Times Article : Advocating a New Vision for River Connection

Between the start of school and a hectic travel schedule, I haven’t written as much as I’d like to lately.  So I’m pasting  in below the text from a Quad City Times article that appeared last week and that quotes me extensively.

It ain’t plagiarism if I copy from myself is it?  The original source is credited.  And I recommend the conference if you can make it.

Looking at the river with ‘new eyes’ Speaker advocates living with, not on, Mississippi River
By Alma Gaul
Source: Quad-City Times
Tuesday,September 13, 2011

Ask Quad-Citians where they live and they’ll likely say, “on the Mississippi.”

Pat Nunnally would like to change that to living “with the Mississippi.”

He also would like people to think of the river not as a barrier to be crossed to get to work or a backdrop for recreation or a foe to be sandbagged, but rather a “living thing” that we need to understand for the future good of our planet and its people.

Nunnally, a teacher at the University of Minnesota, is one of 30 people who will speak Sept. 21-23 in Bettendorf during the fourth annual Upper Mississippi River Conference sponsored by River Action Inc., Davenport.

The conference theme is “balancing nature and commerce,” with topics ranging from hydroelectric dams and tourism to bridges and harvesting Asian carp, an invasive fish species.

The conference targets city planners, elected officials, architects, environmental groups, students and educators, but River Action director Kathy Wine hopes some members of the general public also will attend to become more informed citizens.

Three on-the-river field trips, a catfish fry and a dinner cruise are bonuses, she said.

Nunnally wants to encourage people to better understand the river, beginning with flooding. “We’ve made it so a flood is now a catastrophe,” rather than something rivers do periodically, he said.

Many people still “want to build more armor and try to hold off flooding rather than dealing with it on a more recurring basis,” he said. Newer ways of dealing with floods call for wetland restoration to absorb water, moving buildings off flood plains so they are not in harm’s way and creating structures that retain rain where it falls.

“Davenport does better than a lot of communities” in that regard, he said.

The ecosystem under the water is another area where better understanding would be beneficial, he said.

Sport fishermen and boaters do not want to see Asian carp in the water, and possibly “the best way to slow (the carp’s) advance is to have a healthy aquatic ecosystem, not one that has been weakened by pollution or weakened by poor habitat,” Nunnally added.

“If your concern is to fish or to boat, maybe the thing to do now is to understand what is going on under the water and fix that.”

Water quality is a third area of concern.

“Yes, we have the Clean Water Act, but if the agencies that are charged with management of the act are not funded … if they don’t regulate all that hard because regulations are a threat to industry, a threat to jobs, then that’s potentially an issue,” he said.

Flowing into our rivers are substances he calls “contaminants of emerging concern” ingredients in our shampoos and the plastic in our water bottles, for example “and we don’t know what that stuff is doing to people.”

In addition, nitrogen, phosphorus and soil itself runs off the agricultural land that we all rely on for food, and the agriculture industry is understandably defensive about that, he said. But when we go down to Leach Park in Bettendorf, for example, we don’t see the nutrient content of the water that creates what is called a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Until the broad public does ‘get that’ and understands the relationship between agriculture and clean water, and (until) those two are brought into alignment,” we will have problems, he said.

“We need to look at the river with new eyes,” he added.


What: Four annual Upper Mississippi River Conference, sponsored by River Action Inc., Davenport, with 30 speakers and three field trips

When: Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 21-23

Where: Isle of Capri Convention Center, Bettendorf

How much: $149 ($200 after Thursday, Sept. 15)

For information: Call River Action at (563) 322-2969 or go to its website,


Pat Nunnally teaches landscape planning and urban studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. He also works with the university’s Institute on the Environment, coordinating its river life program. He edited “The City, the River, the Bridge,” a collection of essays examining the consequences and aftermath of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis during August 2007.


  • Larry Larson, director of the Association for State Floodplain Managers, will speak on community resilience in the face of increasing storm intensity and flooding.
  • Robert Meyer, an author, will share his perspective on the Mississippi River after spending 60 days kayaking its 2,550-mile span solo, as chronicled in his book, “An Epic Voyage.” His book also will be available for purchase.


  • A boat tour and lecture about the history and development of the river.
  • A trip to Nahant Marsh, a restored Superfund site and now a 240-acre wetland.
  • A kayak and canoe tour of Sylvan Slough.


Brainstorming design sessions for riverfront projects in LaCrosse, Wis., and Dubuque and Keokuk, Iowa.


  • One watershed: The interdependence of land and its stewards The new face of agriculture, evolution of farming practices, rain gardens.
  • A balancing act: Recovering nature’s equilibrium Mussel populations, how to harvest carp (the Mississippi’s newest crop), the waterfront/harbor plan for LaCrosse County, Wis.
  • Creating a gateway for tourism: Benefiting a community and its river Don’t underestimate what you already have; economic impact of greenways, parks and trails, and keeping a sense of place.
  • The river economy What’s new in hydroelectric dams, steps in getting a project licensed, the future of intermodal connectivity.
  • Beyond borders: collaboration along the river channel The Mississippi River Trail, conservation opportunities along the Upper Mississippi, building the Mississippi Valley Conservancy.
  • Standing in the current: Bridge development on the Mississippi The Minneapolis bridge collapse, preparing for the Interstate 74 bridge in the Quad-Cities, bridge safety.


A bike ride and early morning stroll along Iowa’s Mississippi River Trail.


River Action Inc., with the support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Western Illinois University, Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities, Exelon Nuclear, Alter Barge Line, University of Illinois Extension and the city of Moline.

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