Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

January-February 2013

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From January-February 2013 Big River

Okee Dokee Grammee?

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ Mississippi River inspired CD “Can You Canoe?” has been nominated for a Best Children’s Album Grammy Award.

Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander, who are not actually brothers but have been best friends since childhood, paddled from Lake Itasca to St. Louis to gather inspiration and write the songs. (See the review in Big River, July-August 2012.) Their songs — like “Rosita the Skeeta” and “Thousand Star Hotel” — are so broadly clever and humorous that adults will enjoy them too. The “Can You Canoe?” package includes a CD as well as a DVD of music videos and other features.

The Minneapolis-based duo plans to create a series of other “adventure” CDs. The Grammy Awards ceremony is February 10.

Walking Guide

Davenport, Iowa — Nonprofit River Action, Inc., has just published a new 44-page, pocket-sized guide to 36 interesting walks along the Mississippi River and Duck Creek in the Quad Cities. The guide includes maps, descriptions, a little local history and practical information, such as parking, playground and restroom facilities. Copies are available from River Action, PO Box 964, Davenport, IA 52805, or from its website.

Local Heroes

Three residents of ­Mississippi River towns who risked their lives while saving others from drowning in 2011 were among 19 people awarded Carnegie Medals for Heroism in September 2012.

• Daniel R. Welp of East Dubuque, Ill., saved a man who had gotten stranded in his pickup truck that had washed from a flooded highway into a ditch during heavy rains at night.

Welp was driving on the same highway when the floodwater took his truck past the pickup, where the man was shouting for help because he couldn’t swim. When Welp’s truck stopped, he saw and helped another motorist before returning to the first man. He jumped into the 10-foot-deep water of a flooded ditch, swam to the man and pulled him up the opposite bank to a railroad track, where firefighters found them.

• John P. Williams, a deputy sheriff of La Crosse County, Wis., helped save a man who got carried away by the Mississippi the night of June 25th, 2011.

Williams went to the river bank, saw Joel L. Merchlewitz disappear into the darkness, donned a life vest and dived into the water. He swam about 400 feet downstream and held onto a bridge pier, where he intercepted Merchlewitz. The current carried both of them farther downstream, but boaters aboard a private craft caught up to the men and secured them until a fire department boat arrived and took them to shore.

• Anthony S. Johnson of Farmington, Minn., saved a man who was unconscious and being swept downstream in the ­Mississippi River at Red Wing, Minn. Seeing the man, Johnson immediately removed his shoes and dived off a nearby dock. He swam out and grabbed the man but had a hard time swimming back. He eventually pulled the man out about 420 feet from where he had entered the water.

Since it was established in 1904, the Pittsburgh-based fund has made 9,558 awards for heroism.

Drought Drops Rivers

• Water levels in both the Missouri River and the Mississippi River have dropped substantially, and the Army Corps of Engineers is struggling to balance the needs of Mississippi River shippers this year with those of Missouri River shippers next year. Water levels in the Mississippi River below St. Louis were expected to drop below the nine-foot channel levels needed by barges, by mid-December, but the Corps was continuing to hold back water at Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, S.D., to make sure the Missouri channel can float barges next spring.

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s frac-well drillers sucked water from Missouri River reservoirs, and the state’s governor threatened to sue the Corps if it tries to stop what he says is a sovereign use of the water. (Quad-City Times, 11-21-12)

• Keokuk, Iowa — Like many rivertowns, Keokuk draws most (80 percent) of its drinking water from the river. This year, residents complained about an unpleasant taste and smell in their water. Residents in Burlington, Iowa, and Quincy, Ill., complained, too — at a rate of 20 calls in a day, according to the director of utilities in Quincy, Ill.

City workers treated the water with activated carbon, but this did not solve the problem. They insisted there is no health risk associated with the smell or taste. The problem was attributed to exceptionally low river levels. (Daily Gate City, 11-29-12)

• Belleville, Ill. — Illinois American Water is spending $400,000 at an East St. Louis, Ill., water treatment plant so the plant can pull water from a deeper level of the Mississippi River than its regular intakes reach. The emergency measures are needed because the low water levels in the river made it difficult to maintain water ­supplies for communities in Madison and St. Claire counties. (Quad-City Times, 11-30-12)

• Grey Cloud Island Township, Minn. — This year’s low water levels have made some problems more problematical. Grey Cloud Island Township, the smallest township in the state, occupies an “island,” thanks to a small slough that cuts it off from the mainland. In recent years the slough has become clogged by soil eroded from culverts under a road that connects the island to the mainland.

The culverts were installed in 1923 to replace a wooden bridge. They were damaged by the big floods of 1965 and 1969, but never repaired. Now the eroded culverts slow the water and block boaters and fishermen from two small backwater lakes.

The township has eyed the problem for 10 years or so, with no solution in sight, given its annual budget of $200,000. Now the South Washington Watershed District has stepped up with several alternatives. The solution favored by the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service is construction of a new bridge at a cost of $1.1 million. Local, county and state sources will be sought to fund the project, which could begin in two years. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11-30-12)


To read more Mississippi River news and stories, order this issue or find Big River at one of these retail outlets.

Go to Previous River News (Nov-Dec 2012)

Go to Previous River News (Sept-Oct 2012)

Go to Previous River News (July-August 2012)

Go to Previous River News (May-June 2012)

Go to Previous River News (March-April 2012)

Go to Previous River News (January-February 2012)