Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Minutes from February 19, 2008 meeting

Twenty-four people attended the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance in Hutchinson. Members of the coordinating team took turns facilitating the meeting and keeping it on time.

Opening Comments:
Scott Kudelka, communications coordinator welcomed everyone to the meeting and went over tonight’s agenda:

Welcome & Introductions,
Communication Report,
2008 Events,
Winter issue of the "River Talk" newsletter,
2007 Annual Report,
MN River Friendly Program,
Michael Groh,
2007 "Clean Up the Minnesota River" issue – Conservation Initiative,
How We Got Here,
Living Systems Program,
2008 "Clean Up the Minnesota River" issue,
Communications Strategy,

Each of the participants introduced themselves and stated who they represented.

Gerald Woodley of U.S. Senator Coleman’s office mentioned the school bus crash in Marshall earlier in the afternoon and promised to give us an update as he learned more.

Communications Report:
Scott set out a number of documents for people to pick up as they came in. This included an overview of the events sponsored by the Watershed Alliance in 2008. Two of the events – "Geology of the Minnesota River" in Montevideo and "Rock Outcrops – Treasures of The Valley" in New Ulm have already taken place with various degree of success.

The "Rock Outcrops – Treasures of The Valley" presentation by Ron Bolduan and Tom Kalahar is going to be done again this spring, either Mankato or at the Ney Nature Center in Henderson.
Two flyers for upcoming events were available: On April 17th (Thursday evening), Gregg Thompson will be doing a presentation titled "Rain Gardens for Water Quality" at the Ney Nature Center.

Ron Bolduan will be leading a hike in the Gneiss Scientific and Natural Area on June 14th near Granite Falls. Ron will be showing off some of his favorite sites and how to take photos of wildlife and plants.

A fourth handout was the most recent "River Talk" newsletter featuring articles on Del Wehrspann of rural Montevideo, Geology of the Minnesota River and Scott Matteson, water quality coordinator with the Water Resources Center.

The final handout was an annual report for 2007 prepared on the Watershed Alliance activities for the past year including the Minnesota River Summit, Conservation Lands Easement Initiative and Minnesota River Friendly Label.

The Minnesota River Friendly Label committee of Chantill Kahler-Royer, James Klang, Edwin Dumalag, Joe Domeier and Scott Kudelka will be meeting with Su Beran to talk about next steps to move this initiative forward.

Michael Groh, facilitator suffered a seizure Thanksgiving night and they found a tumor in the front part of his brain. This is why the strategic session in December had been cancelled. At this time Michael has gone back to work but no word on when or if he still wants to facilitate meetings for the Watershed Alliance.

Scott reported on a request by Ken Varland of the MN DNR for a support letter from the Watershed Alliance on the Marsh Lake Study funding through the U.S. Corps of Engineer. The group agreed to have Scott send a support letter to Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, along with Representative Collin Peterson.

CapX 2020, a group proposing to build a new electric transmission lines in the state asked if a member of the Watershed Alliance could attend a meeting tomorrow – February 20th – in Henderson. Scott Sparlin was planning to be there.

Leigh Pomeroy of MSUM sent an email to Scott asking if the Watershed Alliance wants to get involved with the Mankato Million Tree Project. The group asked Scott to see what type of involvement they are looking for.

2007 "Clean Up the Minnesota River" issue – Conservation Initiative
Scott Sparlin reported on the "Conservation Lands Easement Initiative the Watershed Alliance became involved with two years ago. Due to the partnership with numerous of organizations including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Valley Trust, 539 acres of critically sensitive cropland will be put into permanent easements across the Minnesota River Watershed. This translates: for every $1.00 from the Watershed Alliance equaled $9.00 spent for the easement project.

A report has been sent to the Schmidt Foundation. This summer they plan to take photos of the easements to document this important effort. A press release will sent out once all the easements are in place. Right now they are waiting for the last piece in Jessenland Township of Sibley County to be worked out.

Patrick Moore feels a press release / media event would be a great way to sell the project and show the Watershed Alliance’s strength.

A summary of this initiative can be found in the Annual Report.

How We Got Here
Larry Gunderson talked about how the Minnesota River Summit held last January is only the beginning of the effort to bring people of diverse interests to talk about improving water quality in the basin. The Summit has only been the first step as we look to show the big picture on what is happening in the Minnesota River Watershed.

One product is a communication strategy being developed by Edwin Dumalag and David Hayes, MPCA interns to help organizations, agencies and individuals implement communications projects in the Minnesota River Watershed.

The coordinating team of the Watershed Alliance and others have been meeting over the last few months to look at the Minnesota River as a living system or as a whole. The idea is bring all of this together and influence diverse issues like the Farm Bill.

Rich Smith, a culture anthropologist has been working on the concept of a living system and looking at the river as a whole organism, building it off the web as an open system platform. This concept would allow all this knowledge to be shared and it help us to make big leaps forward. This type of big thinking will let us understand all the different relationships. All of this is a result of the MN River Summit and Watershed Alliance quarterly meetings.

A number of participants felt we need to give this Living Systems a try because it fits right into what we are doing as the Watershed Alliance

Living Systems Model
Bill Kell of MPCA provided an overview of the Living Systems Model they are putting together with help from a number of people in the watershed including Scott Sparlin, Dave Craigmile, Lori Nelson, Dee Czech, Patrick Moore and others.

"Minnesota River Basin: Living System" is a system dynamics group model building approach or building the capacity to act.

Aspiration: ability for work toward what we truly care about as individuals and as organizations,
Reflective Conservation: ability to talk about underlying assumptions, to work through defensiveness and to engage others this way,
Understanding Complexity: systems thinking, ability to think causally, to focus on trends over time and to think experimentally about the forces driving them.

The idea is to bring together 100 people from diverse backgrounds to talk about the Minnesota River and use the information to build a model. These people are the ones living and working here. To get our hands around what is happening in the watershed.

All this information will be plugged into a computer with 6 objectives:
Developing a understanding of systems to create enduring solutions,
Articulate a Shared Vision,
Action and Implementation,
Embed Local Capacity for Leadership and Organizing,
Create a Social Movement,
Disseminate the Process

This will fit with the hydrologic model being created for the Turbidity TMDL in the Minnesota River.

Most of us don’t see the entire situation – just what area we are working on – the hope is we can all get to the same place.

The initial process of building the model will take 7 to 9 months and another 2 years to implement what comes from the model. Again this will be built by the people living and working in the watershed.

Larry Gunderson said this will build on the work from the past and will be driven by the people – not by state agencies like MPCA.

Anyone involved in the process will be compensated for time and other expenses including food, mileage and lodging if need be.

The conversation is going to be as important as the modeling process.

How will this work – how will this look? It will show what could happen if,
Lake Pepin fills up with sediment,
Increase row crop production,
Put 30% of highly erodible land into grass for biodiesel production,
Expansion of urban areas and increase stormwater flow.

The model will lead us to help identify situations/ideas that will benefit the river.

There was a number of questions about this model compared to one developed by MPCA for the waste management system in Minnesota. Bill and Larry said that model was driven from the top – Legislators – down, where this one will be driven from the bottom up. This will bring in fresh ideas from people who haven’t participated in the past because this isn’t their job.

People like the idea of the participants getting reimbursed for their time and expenses.
This will be establishing relationships which aren’t static – always in motion.
This will draw out what is already known and create order of the chaos running around in our head.
Involves what the people think – know – want and meant to be part of the movement.
This program is something for the people in the MN River Watershed – to clean up the river – need to get the stakeholders involved.
Focus on one thing together and move onto the next thing.

There was a discussion concerning how the Living System Model fits with why the Watershed Alliance had been formed and three issues came out of it,
This is a big project – all of us involved with the Watershed Alliance will need to work on it,
Some of us are already committed to working on this project,
Funding will be needed for the project with a letter of inquire already sent to the McKnight Foundation

The participants voted to concentrate on promoting and working with this program as the 2008 "Clean up the Minnesota River" issue.

Communication Strategy
David Hayes and Edwin Dumalag from MPCA provided an overview of the Minnesota River Communication Strategy they have been working on since this summer. In the process of developing the strategy they:
Defined the Public Relations Issues by going out to interview citizens, organization staff, government officials and others in the Minnesota River Watershed.
Planning & Programming – they are now coming up with strategies and implementation ideas to enhance communication work already being done in the watershed.

In the future this communication strategy will:
Allow people to take action
Assess and evaluate how the different strategies worked or didn’t work
In the process they conducted 35 interviews and reviewed historical documents from the work that has been done in the Minnesota River Watershed. This helped them define patterns and than turn those patterns into ideas. They also removed the weak links and concentrated on the strong possibilities.

Situation Analysis:
Where we are now
How do we move forward

Develop Implementation Options:
Strategically address the problem at hand
Research viability of each method

Unify the Message
To develop a message that all stakeholders can use to help communicate what is happening the watershed

Leverage Media
To use the broadcast media to effectively inform the public on issues and efforts in the Minnesota River Watershed

Link the conservation groups
To persuade more joint conservation structures and collaborate resources between themselves

Connect with Government
To create meaningful relationships with elected government officials

Promote Alternative Land Stewardship
To inform and promote alternative agriculture products including grass-fed beef

Advocate for Social Change

Integrate information through the internet

Improve Conservation Program Access
Provide an easier way to sign-up for BMPs

Edwin and David provided two examples of how this communication strategy will work:
Volunteering in the Minnesota River Watershed
Develop a clearinghouse to let people interested in volunteering find out opportunities for volunteering
Educate for Social Change
Promote river trips, environmental education in the classroom, river cleanups,
Involve citizens in personal aspects of the river

The Vision for this communication strategy is to let groups or organizations in the Minnesota River Valley pick one of these options to do how they want. Provide a menu of options for people to pick – customize to what that particular group or organization wants to do

Farm Bill:
Gerald Woodley of Senator Coleman’s office was asked about the status of the current Farm Bill. Right now they are waiting to see what Ed Schafer says as the new Agriculture Commissioner. Over 250 amendments have been added to the bill. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill in its current form.

Next Meeting:
The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for April 15th (3rd Tuesday) starting at 6 p.m. at the New Century Charter School in Hutchinson. We will start with a social hour at 6 p.m. with food and drink and begin the meeting right at 7 p.m. and strive to wrap things up in two hours.

Patrick Moore,
Dee Czech,
Larry Gunderson,
Jim Wolf,
Kathleen Wolf,
James Fett,
Lori Nelson,
Scott Sparlin,
Chantill Kahler-Royer,
Jim Schafer,
Franz Allbert Richter,
Joel Wurscher,
Ron Bolduan,
Darrell Ellefson,
Richard Fish,
Mike Lein,
Gerald Woodley,
Davie Craigmile,
Suzie Carlin,
Bill Kell,
Edwin Dumalag,
David Hayes
Tom Berg,
Scott Kudelka