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What is the Mississippi River Commission Responsibilities and Authority?

Updated on October 8, 2010


Before discussing what the Mississippi River Commission and the Mississippi Valley Division within the Mississippi valley and what it does it is important to present and discuss the rich history of the Mississippi River and its importance to the history of our country and its future.

     For 170 years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been an organization of nation builders as well as nation defenders.  One of the major parts of the Corps’ mission has been the development and management of water resources in the public interest.  The landscape of the United States has been transformed by locks, dams, reservoirs, canals, levees, dikes and other features of the Corps rivers and harbors mission.  The nature and grandeur of the river was captured by Mark Twain with his images of steamboats and lively commerce which is embedded in our national consciousness.  The mission also includes protecting lives and property from the ravages of floods and keeping it open for navigation even in severe drought conditions.

     The Mississippi River begins at the tiny Lake Itasca in northwest Minnesota southward for more than 2,300 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.  As part of this journey it gathers runoff from 41 percent of the continental United States.  There have been many stories told of the Mississippi River from those who have lived around it or have been impacted by it.  Its floodplain has also been constructed by levees and floodwalls so that the valley may be safely inhabited.

     In 1928 as a result of the Flood Control Act the Mississippi and Tributaries Project was created.  There are four major elements of this project.


     Levees for containing flood flows

     Floodways for the passage of excess flows past critical reaches of the Mississippi

     Channel improvement and stabilization to provide an efficient and reliable navigation channel, increase the flood-carrying capacity of the river, and protect the levee system.

     Tributary basin improvements for major drainage basins to include dams and reservoirs, pumping plants, auxiliary channels and pumping stations.


     The commission’s priorities have is system-wide which compliments a national vision. It includes infrastructure, environmental sustainability, comprehensive flood control, navigation and water supply.  America’s watershed has a 200 year vision which includes this commission.  It is an intergenerational commitment.  The details of this commitment are admirable and are noted below:


      Enjoy a quality of life unmatched in the world

      Lead secure lives along any river or tributary in the basin

      Enjoy fresh air and the surrounding fauna, flora, and forests while hunting, fishing and recreating along any river or tributary in the basin

      Travel easily, safely, and affordably to various destinations in the watershed

     Drink from and use the abundant waters of any river, stream, or aquifer in the basin

     Choose from an abundance of affordable basic goods and essential supplies that are grown, manufactured, and transported along the river to local and world markets.


     As you can see this commission and the project discussed above greatly impact and will impact the life we have or will have associated with the waterways and tributaries which are part of the Mississippi River.  It is important to note what values this commission has identified as part of their organization.  They involve listening, inspecting, partnering and engineering.  These values represent a connection to the public in accomplishing their responsibilities.

      The listening involves providing an equal opportunity for all citizens to share their insight and wisdom in a free and open forum – a forum that offers greater access for citizens to actively engage in and shape Federal water resource management policy.  This value is important and is something not commonly available or recognized through an agency established by Federal law.

      The inspecting value involves setting the highest professional, engineering, and process standards that are emulated nationally and internationally, and offer an intergenerational vision for the world’s 3rd largest watershed.

      Partnering involves establishing and nurturing long-term collaborative relationships with diverse interests, elected representatives, State and Federal agencies, and the Corps of Engineers to develop sustainable solutions for current and future watershed challenges. 

     The last value involves engineering action to protect lives, property, economic prosperity, and the nation’s natural resources by advancing balanced and sound water resource engineering solutions reached through collaboration and long-term relationships.

     Our water system we have in this country is an important resource and like other resources we have they need to be developed to their full potential.  This commission and the vision for the future is strong.  Our water system of which the Mississippi River is a large part played an important role in the development of our nation.  The impact rivers like the Mississippi had on our development as a country may not truly be understood or realized.  The rivers of our country was critical our economic development by being a resource to move goods from the east to the west and at some point in time west to east.  They were also an avenue to bring news to remote areas of the country that were not fully developed early in our history.   

     Our country is rich in resources and those resources have an impact on our economic stability.  The problem we have is sometimes we do not have the knowledge or capability to develop these resources.  Some involve alternative energy sources. We are beginning to realize the importance of these resources and taking action to some extent to utilize them.  The resources we have must be used wisely so we have them for many years in the future.  Part of this is developing better ways to become more efficient in how we utilize these resources to provide better economic stability.  We must all do our part.  Some of us can do more than others but we all have a stake in how they are used.   


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