A Pulitzer for Tony!

Fantastic news today – Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his series on Missouri’s debtor’s prison scheme. He’s done an incredible job covering this corrupt and unjust system of incarceration of the poor in Missouri, so much so that some of the laws are starting to be changed.

The only thing better than him winning this prestigious prize is his promise to keep fighting:

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I’ve recently reached out to Tony to thank him for his coverage of critically important issues surrounding our local rivers and water resources. I highly recommend reading his most recent article if you haven’t yet:

Messenger: The Missouri River is a ‘mad elephant’ that won’t be tamed by ‘bigger and better’ levees

The article encapsulates much of what I’ve come to learn and know about the state of the Missouri River. Every day, I pass through Chesterfield Valley, the massive strip mall, retail and entertainment development built foolishly in the Missouri River floodplain. In the wake of the recent spring flooding, some state politicians have called for bigger and better levees to protect current and future floodplain development. It’s been proven countless times in 150+ years how bad of an idea this is and how this stance will continue to put people and property at risk.

It is my sincere hope that Tony continues coverage of river-related issues. If he is half as impactful as he was covering the debtor’s prison issues as he is covering the river, then we should expect to see positive change in how we manage our rivers and water resources. I’ll fight with you, Tony.

mf

St. Patrick’s Day Flooding and Some Perspective

St. Patrick’s Day in St. Louis is pretty huge for a dude whose mother’s side of the family is Irish and who is a resident of Dogtown, St. Louis City’s Irish neighborhood. Participating in one parade and just enjoying the other is a chance to catch up with family, many I haven’t seen since last St. Paddy’s day, and many, many friends. Temps in the 50s certainly doesn’t hurt as it seems like we finally might be getting to Spring.

I’m also closely following my beloved St. Louis U. Billikens, who with one more win today against St. Bonaventure, will clinch an unlikely trip to the NCAA basketball tournament. Even if they lose, there is a chance they’ll make it into the NIT, which may even get them another home game, which would be amazing.

With all that’s going on this weekend, I’ve been also trying to keep up with developments around the catastrophic flooding on the upper Missouri River. It hasn’t gotten a lot of mainstream media coverage, but things are pretty bad. I’ve been getting a lot of updates from the Missouri River Paddlers facebook group as well as Missouri River Relief posts. It is way too early to determine how this flooding might affect my trip so I am trying to keep a level head and not worry too much about it. The larger worry is all of those who’ve been affected or soon will be as flooding makes its way downstream.

If you aren’t fully aware, the nutshell version is that the bomb cyclone that recently moved through the Great Plains dropped a ton more snow further north, but also a massive amount of rain further south – in Nebraska and Southern South Dakota. This rain on top of a large amount of snow and ice caused extremely fast thawing and overwhelmed the waterways with rain and snowmelt. A large dam on the Niobrara River in Nebraska as well as multiple bridges were washed out. Now towns along many waterways in the area are under water and there have been multiple fatalities.

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Photo from https://www.myknoxcountynews.com/

While this round of flooding will crest and start receding in the next few days, communities further downstream – into Missouri – will face more danger. On top of this, the higher than average snowpack of Montana, North and South Dakota has yet to see any melting. So this round of disastrous flooding may just be the first of what could be a pretty long spring and summer for high water on the river.

I know I need to have perspective: my trip down the Missouri River this summer is something that’s important to me, but it’s not as important as what others along the river are experiencing. Peoples’ lives, livelihoods and property are at risk right now and will continue to be further into the summer. What happens on the Missouri River over the next 6 weeks or so will determine how I am spending my summer, but for many, it will likely determine how they spend the next few years, or perhaps the rest of their lives.

mf