Thursday, April 21, 2016

Support needed for bonding for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

On behalf of the CREP Coalition, please see the following important Action Alert!

Please contact your legislators and encourage a bonding bill at the level which was proposed by the Governor. It is crucial to meet the needs of the state.  As you know these include critical environmental projects.

Talking points for Bonding Proposal

CREP Specific -
1.        Minnesota submitted a CREP proposal in early December to USDA (through Governor Dayton)
           ·      Calls for up to:  100,000 acres/over 5 years/$795 million (with a minimum of $161M state contribution).
           ·      Practices include buffer filter strips, wetland restoration, and wellhead protection for drinking water.
2.       Legislative support of $30M or larger for RIM in the Bonding Bill is key to leverage federal dollars and ensure the CREP will be successful.
3.       Why Now:

            ·      We have the science done (the studies show where the water quality and habitat problems are and what solutions are needed).

            ·      We are targeting the most critical acres (we are securing CRP and State RIM easements where it matters most) and practices to ensure long-term protection.

 4.       Economic Impact:

·         Based on an USDA economic assessment, $30 million of State RIM funding would create or maintain 280 jobs.

5.       The partnership is key

·         We’ve got ready, willing, and able landowners (and high demand for this program).

·         We have local technical staff and partners ready to make the CREP work.

·         This local/state/federal partnership will deliver long-term public benefits and cost-savings while providing agricultural producers with reasonable payment for the use of their land.

Please call or email your legislators now!  The discussions and decisions for the bonding bill are happening!   

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Learning, networking, organizing at 6th Minnesota River Congress

The 6th Minnesota River Congress was held Thursday March 10, 2016 at the New Ulm Event Center, with 78 people attending. Doors opened at 4:30 p.m. for a network fair with 12 booth displays from organizations across the river basin.
Anthony Sindt, a Minnesota River fisheries specialist with DNR, gave a presentation on the fish populations in the Minnesota River. Brian Hicks from rural Tracy gave a presentation on innovative agricultural drainage management research at his farm.
The Congress business meeting began with an introduction of the new applicants to the Action Board.  They were presented by the nomination committee of Louis Knieper, Jeff Nielsen and Jessie Shaffer.
The list new applicants are: Betsy Nielsen, Chippewa River watershed; Chris Hughes, non-government; James A. (Tony) Thompson, Watonwan River watershed; Julie Beatty, Lower Minnesota River watershed; Tim Buysse, local government; Amy Lynch, Dept. of Health; Mark Dittrich, Dept. of Agriculture; Robyn Ceurvorst, at-large; and Kim Musser, at-large.
Yvonne Shirk applied to be on the Action Board and was included in the current slate of applicants and will be an at-large member for the present time. The current slate of applicants was unanimously approved by the full congress. Clark Lingbeek, Cottonwood County SWCD District Supervisor from rural Comfrey, was nominated by Jeff Nielsen and voted unanimously to another SWCD representative on the board.
Openings still remain for two Native Americans, Dept. of Transportation, Minnesota River Headwaters, Cottonwood and Pomme de Terre watersheds. New applicants will be considered for those categories at the annual meeting in November. All other Action Board positions which are not ‘at-large’ are a two-year commitment.
Congress participants were then urged to distribute the Interest Network Survey to as many people as possible and to use their contacts and any other means to get them to potential interested people.
The interest areas reflect the collective desires of Minnesota River Congress participants from the past two years. The categories relate directly to the prioritized purpose statements developed by the Congress organizing team and approved by the full Congress.
Following the business portion of the March 10 Congress, attendees moved to tables labeled with a particular interest area. Team leaders began to create a team contact list, and lead brainstorming on a list of potential specific actions.  The actions will be prioritized and a time line set for acting on them.
Discussion leaders reported back to the full congress on progress towards actions within their specific interest area. There were numerous actions identified and team leaders were encouraged and instructed to begin the process of communicating electronically and interacting with their team to coordinate actions going forward and subsequently keep both the communications liaison (Forrest Peterson) and the facilitator (Scott Sparlin) informed on actions and accomplishments.
Ron Harnack, who has been working with the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, gave a report on the Minnesota River Commission bill, which was introduced in the Minnesota State Senate as #2204. He reported that it met with considerable negative feedback and as a result they have decided to not pursue it any longer at this time.
In its place a bill has been dropped in the Senate that would implement the so called “One Watershed-One Plan” pilot project in the entire Minnesota River Watershed. This pilot project is currently underway and being administered by the Board of Water and Soil Resources in several watersheds across the state.
There was discussion on the proposed bill with several questions and explanations of what the bill included. Some of the questions included who was accountable for outcomes and who would be involved in creation of priorities and implementation of actions.
Harnack stated that this approach was received well at the county and local level and that he had not been given any significant negative feedback at this point in time. Congress attendees were asked to review the bill on their own and that communications on its movement would come to them electronically. It was then mentioned that at some point the Minnesota River Congress would be asked to endorse or abstain from the bill. It was noted that the Minnesota River Congress is identified in the bill as the on-going local advisory to the plan.
Network fair participants included:  Friends of Pool #2, Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition, Agricultural Water Resources Center, Clean Up the River Environment, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River, Mankato Paddling and Outings Club, Minnesota Earth Sabbath Team, Le Sueur River Citizens Watershed Network, Joseph Brown Center, Tatanka Bluffs Corridor, and Minnesota Valley History Learning Center.  Much interaction and information sharing took place with a number of new attendees who had not attended a previous congress.
Event sponsors included: Minnesota State Mankato Water Resources Center, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center, Clean Up the River Environment, Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River, Joseph Brown Center, Friends of Pool #2, The Minnesota Earth Sabbath Team, Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition, Tatanka Bluffs Corridor, Minnesota Valley History Learning Center, Mankato Paddling and Outings Club, Le Sueur River Citizens Watershed Network, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Rural Advantage, New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen, Minnesota River Watershed Alliance, Lower Minnesota River Watershed District and Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Citizen group ready for economic, natural resource action in Minnesota River basin

A citizen-led group focusing on the natural resource and economic health of the Minnesota River basin will transform from organizing to action at the sixth Minnesota River Congress March 10 at the New Ulm Event Center.

Congress participants and Action Board will act on remaining board elections, annual meeting date, and launch action groups in specific interest areas. The measures were advanced by the Congress Action Board meeting Jan. 26 in New Ulm.

“We’ve come a long way since the first Congress back in June of 2014,” said Scott Sparlin, of the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River and Congress facilitator. “Now is the time for action. We need everyone to help create and carry out actions shaping our future in the entire Minnesota River valley.”

The Congress will open with a networking fair at 4:30 p.m. at the New Ulm Event Center, 301 20th St. So. A lasagna dinner will be served at 6 p.m. At 6;45 p.m. Brian Hicks, a farmer from Tracy, and Tony Sindt of the DNR, will give short presentations about cropland drainage research and Minnesota River fish species. The Congress meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.

“After the old Minnesota River Board disbanded, numerous people believed that some type of group focused on the entire Minnesota River basin was still a critical need to help accomplish basin-wide goals,” Sparlin said.

Since the first Congress, accomplishments include: Conducting five well-attended Congress meetings, six regional listening sessions, creating an Action Board, identifying specific interest areas and recruiting participants, and incorporation as a non-profit organization.

The Action Board includes representatives from the 13 watersheds in the basin, business, agriculture, local government, recreation, and state agencies.

Current Action Board vacancy categories are: One each from Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Minnesota River headwaters, Pomme de Terre River, Dept. of Transportation, and two from Native American communities. More information about the Congress including a list of Action Board categories is available online at

At the fifth meeting Nov. 12, 2015 the Congress voted to conditionally support proposed legislation (Senate File 2204) creating a Minnesota River Commission. “While we have offered conditional support, we are emphasizing that this is separate from the Congress,” Sparlin said. “We have heard of opposition to the proposed bill from some existing groups, and want to make sure that this is not confused with the Congress.”

Registration for the Congress is available online at, or by mail to Minnesota River PO Box 488, New Ulm, MN 56073. Make checks payable to the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River. The cost is $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. There is no charge for young adults under 19 or with a college ID. Online registration for the networking fair is available at: .

For more information, contact Scott Sparlin, 507-276-2280,