The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Two Upcoming Delta Events: Annual Little Rock Conference on Nov. 7-8, 2019; & May, 2020 on 20th Anniversary of Delta Vision, Delta Voices Event

Posted on August 06, 2019 at 01:57 PM

The Delta Caucus will hold our annual Greater Delta Region conference in Little Rock on Nov. 7-8, 2019 to focus on job creation, transportation, levee improvements and flood control, housing and other infrastructure, job creation and other community and economic development initiatives for the region from southern Missouri and Illinois to New Orleans.

There is another very special occasion coming up on May 28-29, 2020 at the Clinton Library Great Hall in Little Rock: on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Clinton administration’s bipartisan Delta Vision, Delta Voices conference in Washington, DC, we will hold a conference to develop policy actions, urge the powers that be to take more effective action for the community and economic development of our region, and look forward to advocacy in 2020 and into the future.

The Delta Caucus usually does not organize and promote events this far ahead of time, but the May 28-29, 2020 event is a very special conference that will be on a larger scale than many of our other events. While we certainly want to look back upon what has worked well for the Delta the past 20 years as well as our remaining challenges, the focus is looking forward to urging action and progress now and in the future. We will be continuing to advocate for economic progress and developing policy actions with that goal always in mind.

We have consulted with many leaders who were involved in the 2000 Delta Vision, Delta Voices conference and have continued to work tirelessly for the Delta region’s development every day since then, as well as new partners like Rupa Dash, CEO of the World Woman Federation, who is a dynamic advocate for women’s issues in the Delta region and across the country.

Other key partners for the May, 2020 Delta event include:

–Wilson Golden, Clinton administration Presidential appointee and currently board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Jackson, Mississippi;

–Bill Bynum, CEO, HOPE Credit Union and Enterprise Corp., a key participant in the Clinton administration’s bipartisan effort and leader of a tremendously productive foundation in our region;

–other corporations, foundations and universities and colleges;

–Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League;

–Mike Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and formerly Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Alternate Federal Co-Chairman;

–Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas, long-time Delta regional advocate;

–Kay Goss, President Clinton’s Associate Director of FEMA and a nationally recognized expert on disaster relief;

–Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, AR–Nucor is a key regional leader of the Delta and their northeast Arkansas plant is a world-class steel mill in the heart of the Delta;

–Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas;

–Millie Atkins, long-time Delta regional advocate in Monroe, Louisiana;

–Alan Gumbel, Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce in Memphis, Tennessee, and

–many others across the region, in Washington, DC and elsewhere we will be working with in the coming months.

We will be inviting President Clinton to speak at the May 29, 2020 Clinton Library event. He does not confirm until much later in the process, of course. We have also greatly appreciated Chelsea Clinton’s strong interest in the Delta. She gave a great presentation at our conference in 2017 and she of course is the future of the Clinton Foundation and a dynamic leader in her own right.

We will be inviting many of our other long-time key partners and are hearing from more and more of them all the time. We have invited former US Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and many other high-level officials who participated at the 2000 conference and have longstanding ties to the Greater Delta Region. We will keep you posted as we continue to prepare for this special occasion at the Clinton Library in May, 2020. We have reserved the Clinton Library Great Hall for May 29, 2020.

At the May, 2020 conference, we will make a series of announcements from corporations, foundations and other institutions in the region regarding funding for community and economic development programs in the vast region of 8 states and 10 million people.




C. KEY ISSUES FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE, including a pro-active approach to flood control

Here are the two schedules for the two conferences this fall and next spring:

A. Schedule for Annual Delta Conference in Little Rock, Nov. 7-8, 2019

OPENING SESSION—Thursday evening, Nov. 7, 2019, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda

FRIDAY MORNING AND LUNCH: Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Robinson Center Ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River

(Please note: this is the first time we will be convening in the Robinson Center facility and this will make a good change of pace.)

B. Schedule–“The Delta in 2020 and Beyond: on the 20th Anniversary of the Delta Vision, Delta Voices Conference in Washington, DC”

OPENING SESSION—Thursday, May 28, 2020, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda

MAIN SESSION—Friday morning and lunch, May 29, 2020, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Clinton Library Great Hall

C. KEY ISSUES FOR NOV. 7-8, 2019 CONFERENCE—including levee improvements and pro-active approach to flood control

We will highlight a broad range of infrastructure issues in transportation, flood control, broadband access, housing and related subjects, as well as the key issues we always include of job creation at good wages, health care, nutrition and other USDA programs, Delta heritage tourism and other community and economic development initiatives.

Importance of developing a pro-active, long term response to levee improvements and other flood control measures: Flooding has become worse in our region in recent years and likely will continue to become worse each year into the future. This requires a pro-active, long term response with preparation and action before the disasters strike, rather than reacting after the next flood begins.

There has been flooding in varying degrees all across the region this year. We will focus on all the major rivers across the region: the Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, White and other tributaries. These issues are inter-related: if a levee breaks at one point it has an impact on communities downstream. The Mississippi River was at a high level when the Arkansas River flooded this year, thus preventing the Arkansas from flowing as quickly into the Mississippi and thus reducing its water levels.

Flooding is increasingly worse as time goes along:

· January to May, 2019 was the wettest five-month period in history

· numerous cities along the Mississippi River experienced the worst flooding in 50 years

· flooding has caused other problems like obstructing barge traffic on the Mississippi, where grain unloaded at ports on the river were down 15% from last year as of the late spring

· many farmers lost a season of planting.

We are gathering information and policy recommendations from many leaders in our network, including Kay Goss, former Associate Director of FEMA and a nationally recognized expert in disaster relief. Our partners with extensive experience in flooding issues emphasize several key points, including: the Corps of Engineers should be funded specifically to assess the levees in the Mississippi and Arkansas River basins, while the National Flood Insurance managed by FEMA should be re-authorized for the long-term, at least a year at a time or longer, if possible. A Congressional re-authorization in the spring was only for two weeks. The state and local entities need more help than this, and for a realistic timeframe.

Levee review task force in Arkansas: In Arkansas, we have appreciated Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s leadership in forming a state levee review task force and requesting $10 million for levee repairs from the recent damage caused by Arkansas River flooding. FEMA and other entities will have to contribute much more than the $10 million, but that is a good start.

Several Delta Caucus partners are serving on the levee task force and we have been sending feedback and recommendations to the governor’s office, state legislators, county judges, mayors and others involved in flood control.

Many of the levees in Arkansas have been in inadequate condition for many years. Many of them held during the recent flooding but some did not, and some held by the narrowest margins. The Corps of Engineers assesses many levees as in “unacceptable condition,” with problems of internal drainage, encroachment, inactive levee boards and other issues.

Importance of state oversight of local levee boards: State legislation passed in 2016 took steps in the right direction in authorizing county judges to appoint members to inactive levee boards, and requiring county clerks to send annual reports to the Natural Resources Commission. Our colleagues have extensive experience with the rivers from Little Rock to the Mississippi, and they emphasize that some vacancies on boards are still not filled, while some boards are not filing reports as they should.

Our colleagues support a recommendation that a state government entity should enforce compliance with these requirements and add “more teeth in the rules that require accountability.” The state entity could be in either the Department of Emergency Management, the Natural Resources Commission, or another state agency, providing local entities with more oversight.

Some partners with experience in flooding issues have pointed out that the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) has extensive experience with disasters and thus would make a good choice as the state agency with oversight authority over the local boards.

On the other hand, if a strong consensus develops in favor of the Natural Resources Commission, that is another alternative. Getting some state oversight will be essential to remove the patchwork quality that exists today where some local levee boards do a good job, some are barely adequate, and others are deficient.

Flood control improvements require interlocking contributions from federal, state and local levels: Again, we know how these federal, state and local issues are interlocking. Some levee boards naturally do a much better job than others. Another complication is that the Corps may not provide technical aid and repair funding when the levees do not meet the “minimally acceptable” standard. We support repairing the existing damage and then putting in place compliance procedures to prevent the many oversights that have caused so many problems for too many levees.

Key—build the levees back stronger than they were before, not just to the same level: Former Associate FEMA Director Kay Goss recalls that Arkansas did a full-scale review of all its bridges after the deadly Mississippi River Bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007, and now is the perfect time to partner with the Corps of Engineers to assess the viability of levees throughout the state. Disaster funding from all levels coming into the state after the recent floods should be used to build the levees back stronger–not just back to the level at the time of the disaster, a typical weakness in many states receiving disaster assistance.

There has unfortunately been a widespread pattern that flooding receives major attention at the time of a disaster, but as time goes on, complacency sets in and the issue loses focus as a top priority. We support the establishment of the current state levee task force as a long-term effort, far beyond its initial report, limited funding, and hoping the next disaster is a long way off.

It would be beneficial to pass a grant program to provide matching state funds, and most of all having the task force remain in operation until issues with currently unacceptable levees and inactive levee boards are corrected. Of course, we have to get the levees to acceptable Corps requirements so that repairs and maintenance can be provided by the Corps in the future.

We appreciate Gov. Hutchinson’s foresight in forming the state levee review task force, and this likely would be a good model for the other Delta states to follow.

In addition to the levees, pumps in many local areas are old and in need of repair. Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas indicated that the levees in his area are solid, but his pumps are old. This would not require a huge amount of funding to update the pumps. Mayor Smith estimated that probably about $150,000 or so would be very helpful for the pumps improvement.

We encourage officials at all levels, home and business owners all across the region to consult the FEMA website and check the status of flood insurance maps in your local area.

Please check the FEMA Flood Map Service Center website to see if your flood maps have been updated. Let’s avoid what happened in a Florida community where 80% of the homes and businesses that were destroyed were uninsured because FEMA placed them in flood zone “X” maps–areas that have low to moderate risks for flooding.

Please stay informed about the condition of the flood maps in your area in the Delta region. Our flooding except in south Louisiana is of course from rivers rather than the coastal flooding in Florida, but many of our areas are at risk as well, as you know.

Let’s work to keep home-owners and business owners informed about the need for flood insurance in your local area in the Delta.

FEMA acknowledges that the maps need updating and states that it is working on doing so.

By statute the maps are supposed to be updated every five years, but a chronic funding shortfall has prevented that from happening. FEMA’s debt was $20.5 billion as of December, 2018. It is unfortunately still low on Congress’ priorities, with the latest proposal being another stop-gap reauthorization and not full funding. Contact your Member of Congress about the great importance of this issue.

Go on the FEMA Flood Map Service Center website today and see where your local area stands regarding flood maps.


You register by paying the registration fees.

Registration fees are $100 each, or $75 for those who have paid their annual dues for the 2019 calendar year.

We offer substantial group discounts if you can get together a group of four or five people or more.

The fastest and easiest way to pay the registration fees is to go on the website at and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.” This accepts debit and credit cards.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

Late registration fees increase to $125 after October 24.


We have a group hotel discount at the Holiday Inn Presidential for the night of Nov. 7 of $89, which is a low rate for a good hotel in the Little Rock River Market district.

To get the group discount, call the hotel at (501) 375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Thanks very much—Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc. (202) 360-6347