December 3, 2019
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC

The Mississippi River watershed routinely experiences severe flooding events, causing damage to infrastructure, agriculture, the economy, and the environment. Now, climate change is exacerbating this flooding, guaranteeing that the situation will only get worse. A new, radical course needs to be charted.

2019 Congress speakers and delegates will discuss impacts of the new climate normal, re-imagine management for different sectors of the watershed, and examine the stubborn and long-standing impediments to sustainably managing resources within the watershed.

Program topics included:

  • a historical overview of how we have transformed the Mississippi River;
  • projected increased precipitation and severe storms in the watershed;
  • flood control and risk reduction;
  • implications of unwise land-use policies in our floodplains;
  • emerging strategies and tools for reducing degradation of ecological resources;
  • lessons in river management from the European Union; and
  • overcoming longstanding impediments to effective management of the watershed.



Craig Colten

Louisiana State University


Dan Barrie

NOAA Climate Program Office


Todd Bridges

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Chad Berginnis

Association of State Floodplain Managers


Kris Johnson

The Nature Conservancy


Giuliana Torta

EU Delegation to the US


Hans Pietersen


Project Management - College of Engineering, University of Maryland at College Park

Gerry Galloway

University of Maryland


8:10 am – 8:30 am
Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30 am – 8:35 am

John Durrant
RNRF Chairman
American Society of Civil Engineers
Reston, VA

8:35 – 8:40
Opening Remarks

Tom Chase
Chair, RNRF Congress Program Committee
Director of Coasts, Oceans, Ports & Rivers Institute
American Society of Civil Engineers
Reston, VA

8:40 am – 9:00 am
The Mississippi River Watershed – As We Found It and Today

The congress will begin with an overview of the Mississippi River watershed, past and present. Our speaker will discuss how managing resources in the Mississippi River watershed has been a complicated challenge since the 1800’s. The river has resisted being tamed and its management has been comprised of numerous piecemeal measures through the decades.

Craig Colten is the Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University. Over his career he has authored numerous works including Perilous Place, Powerful Storms: Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana and An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature. Colten’s current work involves diverse topics including adaptation efforts along Louisiana’s changing coast, community resilience, water issues, and hazards facing the southern United States.

Colten received a B.A. and M.A. from Louisiana State University and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

Carl O. Sauer Professor, Department of Geography & Anthropology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA

9:00 am – 9:10 am
Questions and Discussion

9:10 am – 9:30 am
Observed and Projected Physical Climate Change

Significant climatic changes are coming to the Midwest and Mississippi River watershed. Climate change is warming our atmosphere and leading to more frequent and intense precipitation events, a trend that is projected to increase through the end of this century. Our speaker will describe what we may anticipate in terms of total precipitation, seasonal variation, and impacts on lakes, rivers and aquifers.

Dan Barrie is a program manager in Climate Program Office (CPO) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Within CPO, he co-manages the Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program, which focuses on model development, improvements to predictions and projections of climate conditions, and analysis of the climate system toward improved modeling and projections. He also served on the Federal Steering Committee for the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Barrie received a B.A. in physics from Colgate University and a Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic science from the University of Maryland.

Program Manager, Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections Program
Climate Program Office
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Silver Spring, MD

PowerPoint Slides 

9:30 am – 9:40 am
Questions and Discussion

9:40 am – 9:55 am

9:55 am – 10:25 am
Flood Control and Risk Reduction

Flooding is a major issue in the Mississippi River watershed. To combat this flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses various flood control and risk reduction measures. Our speaker will describe the legacy of a century of building structure, including funding and maintenance issues, as well as the role of structure moving forward. How will the Corps prepare for more water in the watershed?

Todd Bridges is the senior research scientist for environmental science with the U.S. Army. He leads research, development, and environmental initiatives for the U.S. Army as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Bridges is the national lead for USACE’s Engineering with Nature initiative that promotes sustainable, resilient infrastructure systems.

Bridges received a B.S. and M.S. from California State University, Fresno and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

Senior Research Scientist, Environmental Science
National Lead, Engineering with Nature Initiative
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Vicksburg, MS

PowerPoint Slides

10:25 am – 10:55 am
Questions and Discussion

10:55 am – 11:25 am
Floodplain Management

The Mississippi River has always flooded, but flooding has become more problematic due to continuing unwise development in the floodplain. The construction of levees along the river as well as federal flood insurance policies encourage people to live, work, and farm in risky flood-prone areas. How can we break free from this cycle of repeated, devastating flooding? Our speaker will examine potential ways to rectify our legacy of land-use choices.

Chad Berginnis is the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. His professional focus includes floodplain management, hazard mitigation, and land-use planning. Recently, Berginnis testified on a myriad of flooding issues before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing titled “Water Resources Development Acts: Status of Implementation and Assessing Future Needs.”

Berginnis received a B.S. from Ohio State University.

Executive Director
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Madison, WI

PowerPoint Slides

11:25 am – 11:55 am
Questions and Discussion

11:55 am – 12:35 pm
Lunch (provided)

12:35 pm – 1:05 pm
Analytical Tool Guides Protection & Restoration of Ecological Resources

The Mississippi River Basin is America’s iconic watershed and supports vast ecological resources. Yet development, loss of natural habitats and conversion of lands for agriculture have degraded these ecological resources. Excess nutrients and sediments from cities and farms and the loss of tens of millions of acres of floodplains along the Mississippi River and its tributaries diminish habitats and impact water quality both throughout the Basin and all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. This presentation will examine the potential for floodplain protection and restoration to help restore the health of the Mississippi River Basin and provide multiple benefits for people and nature. Our speaker will showcase innovative science and tools that can be used to achieve this objective.

Kris Johnson is the associate director for science and planning, North America Agriculture Program with The Nature Conservancy. In this position, he works to develop strategies that lead to large-scale adoption of conservation measures in agricultural practices. His broad range of expertise includes agriculture, conservation biology, ecosystem services, and floodplains.

Johnson received a B.A. from Bowdoin College and a M.S. and Ph.D. from University of Minnesota. He was a Fulbright Scholar and MacArthur Scholar, and is currently a senior fellow in sustainable agricultural systems at the University of Minnesota.

Associate Director for Science and Planning, North America Agriculture Program
The Nature Conservancy
Minneapolis, MN

PowerPoint Slides

1:05 pm – 1:35 pm
Questions and Discussion

1:35 pm – 2:05 pm
Lessons in River Management from the European Union: Governance and Legislative Framework

How can successful elements of international river management be applied to the Mississippi River watershed? What lessons related to governance can Europe share from its experiences with the Danube and Rhine Rivers? Are there insights for America in the Floods Directive adopted by the EU Parliament?

Giuliana Torta serves as counselor for environment, fisheries and ocean policies at the EU Delegation to the US in Washington, DC. Giuliana worked in the European Commission headquarters for 11 years before moving to the US in 2017, first in the Director General for Environment, then for Climate. A forester by training, she has over 25 years of professional experience in environmental policies, including biodiversity and nature conservation, international forestry, climate adaptation and sustainable development. She was previously posted in the EU Delegation for the Pacific, with responsibilities over regional programs on environment, forestry and rural development.

Giuliana holds a Ph.D. in forest ecology.

Counselor for Environment, Fisheries and Ocean Policies
European Union Delegation to the U.S.
Washington, DC

PowerPoint Slides

2:05 pm – 2:35 pm
Questions and Discussion

2:35 pm – 2:55 pm

2:55 pm – 3:25 pm
Lessons in River Management from the European Union: The Dutch Perspective and the Rhine

Hans Pietersen is a senior advisor for international affairs at the Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), the Dutch agency responsible for the design, construction, management, and maintenance of the main water infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands. There, he coordinates the "Risks and Opportunities" program on European policy initiatives. He also coordinates international cooperation with Denmark, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Prior to taking this position in 2007, he was a seconded national expert at the European Commission in Brussels, and worked in RWS as a program leader dealing with issues related to raw materials, dredging sludges, and polluted soil.

Hans holds a M.S. in geochemistry from Utrecht University and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Delft University of Technology.

Senior Advisor, International Affairs
Utrecht, Netherlands

PowerPoint Slides

3:25 pm – 3:55 pm
Questions and Discussion

3:55 pm – 4:25 pm
Longstanding Impediments to Effective Management
The stubborn and longstanding impediments to effective river management have been the absence of a national vision of how the river should be managed and thus no agreed upon federal role to coordinate interstate actions, a lack of consensus about management among the 31 states along the river, and no effective process for securing funding for the maintenance and operation of the river and associated infrastructure. These political barriers will be examined.

Gerry Galloway is a Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park. He has spent a long career working to solve water management issues, including 38 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a brigadier general. He served for three years as USACE District Engineer in Vicksburg, MS and later, for seven years as a presidential appointee to the Mississippi River Commission. Following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1993, he led an interagency study of the causes of the flood, making essential recommendations concerning the nation's floodplain management program.

Galloway received a M.S. in engineering from Princeton University; a M.P.A. from Pennsylvania State University (Capitol Campus); a master's in military art and science (M.M.A.S.) from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; and a Ph.D. in geography (water resources) from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).

Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering
University of Maryland
College Park, MD

PowerPoint Slides

4:25 pm – 4:55 pm
Questions and Discussion

4:55 pm

Robert Day
Executive Director



Tom Chase, Alternate Director, RNRF Board of Directors; Director of Coasts, Oceans, Ports & Rivers Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers



John E. Durrant, RNRF Chairman; Sr. Managing Director, Engineering & Lifelong Learning, American Society of Civil Engineers

Robert Day, RNRF Executive Director

Betsy Cody, Alternate Director, RNRF Board of Directors; President-Elect, American Water Resources Association

Dresden Farrand, RNRF Board Member; Executive Vice President, American Water Resources Association

Sarah Gerould, RNRF Board Member; Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Paul Higgins, Alternate Director, RNRF Board of Directors; Director, AMS Policy Program, American Meteorological Society

Lu Gay Lanier, RNRF Board Member; American Society of Landscape Architects Fund

Andy Miller, RNRF Board Member; Policy Fellow, AMS Policy Program, American Meteorological Society

Raj Pandya, RNRF Board Member; Program Director, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union

Howard Rosen, RNRF Board Member; Public Interest Member

Barry Starke, RNRF Board Member; Public Interest Member

Kasey White, RNRF Board Member; Director of Geoscience Policy, Geological Society of America


RNRF Staff Liaisons:

Madeline Voitier, Senior Program Manager

Stephen Yaeger, Program Manager


Special Thanks:

Nicole Carter, Natural Resources Policy Specialist, Congressional Research Service

Gerry Galloway, Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, University of Maryland

Dennis Lambert, Chair, ASCE COPRI Waterways Committee

Dale Morris, Director of Strategic Partnerships, The Water Institute of the Gulf

Claudia Nierenberg, Division Director, Climate and Societal Interactions, NOAA Climate Program Office



The RNRF Congress on Charting a New Course for the Mississippi River Watershed will be held at the American Geophysical Union located at 2000 Florida Ave NW in Washington, DC. This building is the first net zero energy commercial renovation in D.C. and is an eight-minute walk from the Dupont Station on Metro's Red Line. Public parking is available directly across the street.