Mississippi River

The 2,340-mile Mississippi River flows from the through ten states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana — before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it provides drinking water for more than 18 million people as well as vital cultural, recreational, economic, and wildlife resources to the entire country.  The Mississippi River watershed drains all or part of 32 states, and is the second largest watershed on the North American continent.

What is ELPC Doing?

  • Conserving wild and natural places like the Driftless. In the heart of the Midwest lies the Driftless area, straddling the mighty Mississippi across parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. With its unique topography and deep rolling hills, the Driftless is a treasured place to camp, fish, hike, hunt, and tour vineyards and organic farms. Yet plans for a massive high-powered transmission line threaten to cut a wide swath through this pristine area from Iowa to Wisconsin, sparking protest among local residents. With energy demand declining in the area, the destruction is certainly unnecessary. ELPC is representing the Driftless Area Land Conservancy in the courts, as they fight the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission line.
  • Protecting the Mississippi headwaters from oil. The proposed Enbridge Line 3 would traverse an ecologically vulnerable part of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, carrying the same heavy “dilbit” oil that devastated the Kalamazoo River in 2010. This pipeline would cross rivers, lakes and wetlands, Native American ”ceded territories” where the Bands retain hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, and the priceless headwaters of the Mississippi, before ending at a tank farm across from the refinery on Lake Superior where an explosion last year injured dozens. ELPC is urging the state to consider whether there is any genuine need for the project, to seriously evaluate alternative routes, and to require Enbridge to set aside funds for any potential ruptures, so taxpayers won’t have to clean up their mess.
  • Reducing pollution and algal blooms. Runoff pollution is drastically under-regulated, whether from urban or rural sources along the river and its many tributaries. The excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and other materials that flow into small streams and rivers across a third of the country eventually find their way into the Mississippi and then the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, this “non-point pollution” causes excess algae that blooms into stinky and sometimes toxic masses that can decrease property values, disrupt tourism, and harm aquatic life. In the Gulf of Mexico, it creates a massive “dead zone” where no oxygen is available for native aquatic life to thrive. ELPC is working to improve water quality criteria and enforce the Clean Water Act to prevent such pollution.


What causes algal blooms? Indiana University Center for Earth & Environmental Science
ELPC publications – Cultivating Clean Water (2010), Land Use Tools to Protect Groundwater 1-4(2011)


Driftless area – Driftless Area Land Conservancy
Headwaters – Friends of the Headwaters, Honor the Earth
General Mississippi – Mississippi River Collaborative, Friends of the Mississippi River, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association


Star Tribune: Enbridge says Line 3 pipeline project in Minnesota to be delayed a year
Wisconsin Public Radio: “Once it’s built, there’s no going back” Public gives input on ATC transmission line before PSC
Wall Street Journal: The World’s Appetite is Threatening the Mississippi River

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