USACE Hosts Reciprocal Mekong River Commission Exchange Visit

The Mekong River Commission visited the United States conducting the exchange with the U.S.-based Mississippi River Commission, continuing the momentum on reciprocal exchanges to share best practices and lessons learned on river and water management.

Water challenges, best practices, and five troubling trends were topics of discussion by leaders of commissions representing two river basins located a world apart from each other during the weeklong 13th session of the Mekong-Mississippi Sister Rivers Partnership Exchange hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Los Angeles District, which began Aug. 13. Mississippi River Commission president Brig. Gen. Kimberly Peeples said the main goals of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership are:

  • to improve transparency, good governance, connectivity, and sustainable governance through implementing regional capacity-building activities, fostering regional policy dialogues, and exchanging expertise and best practices;
  • to strengthen regional connectivity by building connections among institutions, the public and private sectors, and people within the Mekong Region and the United States; and
  • to work with countries of the Mekong Region and international partners to identify and implement solutions for key challenges.

“Just as the Mississippi River Commission believes it has much to offer from our experiences in addressing troubling trends, we recognize the Mekong River Commission has much to offer. We welcome the opportunity to learn how you are addressing these challenges.”

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During reciprocal discussions, each commission presented their perspective on the five troubling trends facing their basin: low regime; sediment transport; flood and drought worsened by climate change; saltwater intrusion; and plastics pollution. The Mississippi Valley Division’s Andy Ashley, the division’s science and technology officer, represented the Mississippi River Commission in the discussion.

For the first time in the Sister Rivers Partnership Exchange history, a guest commission participated in the event. The International Boundary and Water Commission for the U.S. and Mexico provided insight into transboundary challenges between the two countries’ dispute management, which creates opportunities for development.

The delegation toured several sites within the footprint of the Los Angeles District, beginning with the Castaic Pumped Storage Plant, where knowledge was gained on the use of the plant and its challenges and benefits in support of Mekong River Commission’s future planning considerations.

A visit to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab helped provide an understanding of the use of NASA satellites for remote sensing and climate change studies, all while showcasing innovative technologies. A Prado Dam visit demonstrated groundwater recharge, water conservation, and flood management.

At the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the delegates received an introduction and demonstration of a reservoir operations strategy using data from watershed monitoring and improved weather forecasting, and learned how atmospheric river reconnaissance can be used to predict flood forecasting.

An international wastewater treatment park was an opportunity to showcase the U.S. – Mexico river area and observe those transboundary water challenges previously discussed.

The Sister Rivers Partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission is one of many programs carried out under the umbrella of the larger Mekong-U.S. partnership.

This exchange meeting is of importance as it will help sustain and build on the momentum and the renewal of the Mekong River Commission-Mississippi River Commission Memorandum of Understanding for an additional five years.

The Mekong River Commission possesses a long history of data collection and analysis about the condition and health of the Mekong River and provides scientific analysis and advice for the Lower Mekong countries. From its origins as the Mekong Committee in 1957, the Mekong River Commission has grown into an internationally recognized organization that includes the following partners: Southeast Asian nations, Friends of the Mekong, Asian Development Bank, Lancang Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center, Korea’s K-Water, Korean Development Institute, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Asia Water Council, and Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.

The Mississippi River Commission has a history that dates to 1879, which rests on a public engagement strategy where its members listen to the concerns of those who live, work, and recreate along the river; get boots on the ground and inspect the challenges confronting them; and then partner with them to develop solutions to those challenges.

This article is featured in the 2023-2024 edition of America’s Engineers: The People, Programs, and Projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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