- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A new fund will help provide seed money for sustainable waterfront development in cities and towns along the Mississippi River, the mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, said Wednesday.

Roy Buol is co-chair of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, which consists of mayors of 65 riverfront cities and towns in 10 states, 25 of whom are meeting in New Orleans.

American Water gave $15,000 to start the fund, Buol said. Five of the states it serves are along the Mississippi and two of them take water from it, said Maureen Duffy, a spokeswoman for the Voorhees, New Jersey-based company.

The fund will provide money for early planning, engineering and environmental assessments - often the hardest part of getting money for a project, initiative director Colin Wellenkamp said.

The projects “are going to be as diverse as the cities along the river,” Buol said. He said Dubuque is working to restore a creek that had been covered over more than a century ago as part of the city’s sewer system so it will once more be open to the air and can carry storm runoff, reducing flooding.

Grafton, Illinois, is restoring a riverfront wetland with a walkway and viewing area where students and other visitors can learn about the importance of wetlands, said Mayor Tom Thompson.

Buol also said Home Depot, one of the nation’s largest container importers, has joined the group’s push to bring container barges back to the Mississippi River.

Such barges hauled cargo between Memphis and New Orleans from 2006 through 2009, but the recession wiped out most such shipping, Wellenkamp said.

Roads and railroads are running at capacity but the river can handle more cargo, helping the economies of states along the river, he said.

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