Tuesday, February 05, 2008

October 16, 2007 Meeting Minutes

Nineteen people attended the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance in Hutchinson. Michael Groh, Independent Consultant served as the facilitator. Thanks Michael for keeping us on task and on time.

Opening Comments:
Dee Czech introduced the upcoming presentation: “Changing The World – One Bite at a Time” on November 3rd (Saturday) at the Center for Earth Spirituality and Rural Ministry (170 Good Counsel Drive, Mankato). For more information contact Lisa Coons at 507-389-4272 or lcoons@ssndmankato.org.

Action Item: Scott Kudelka will send out the information on the presentation via the MN River Weekly Update and put it on the MN River Calendar.

Scott Sparlin reported on the status of the “Clean Up the Minnesota River” issue – enrolling critically sensitive land into permanent easements. To date, 430 acres of formerly cropped CREP eligible flood lands have been permanently protected in the Minnesota River Watershed, leveraging 5.3 dollar match for every dollar from the Schmidt Foundation. In addition we are targeting 220 floodplain acres in Jessenland Township, Sibley County.

Action Item: More information will be forthcoming from Scott Sparlin.
Patrick Moore asked the group to submit a video to the ‘Green’ Carpet You Tube Video Contest sponsored by CURE on November 16th and 17th. The video needs to be 5 minutes or less and with today’s technology it’s easy to do. Patrick said the goal of the contest is to engage and inspire the next generation to take an interest in the Minnesota River Watershed.

Action Item: Scott will forward the information via the MN River Weekly Update and put it on the MN River Calendar.

Shannon Fisher talked about the future CRP with the high price of corn and development of more ethanol plants. He said one landowner in Le Sueur County has already decided to take out 120 acres of CRP to plant more corn. On the flip side, according to Shannon, the $150 million ethanol plant originally planned for Erskine, MN will not be built because corn prices are too high and not enough demand for ethanol.

Jim Schafer said only 1.7 acres of CRP land has been taken out in Renville County and reported the Federal Match for this conservation programs is going up. Rick Schoening, a farmer in High Island Creek Watershed, said he will be keeping his land in CRP because he doesn’t want to farm it.

Scott Sparlin offered that fishing is good on the MN River. Walleyes are really hitting.

Review of July 17th Action Items:
Scott Kudelka asked the participants to read the proposed action items from the July Quarterly meeting and for any questions regarding the status of each one.

Patrick Moore asked about MN River Music CD Project. Scott Kudelka explained we are still moving forward with this project to produce a CD on the music influences of the Minnesota River Watershed. A future meeting will be set up with Bill Kell and Larry Gunderson of MPCA to discuss potential funding sources. Another component of the project will be to produce three, 25-minute radio broadcasts with the assistance of the Minnesota State University, Mankato public radio station.

Scott Kudelka gave a brief timeline of the MN River Friendly Label. An on-line survey has been developed to gage the interest of businesses, organizations and individuals in this program and will be sent out in the near future. Patrick Moore feels this is a worthwhile program and needs to move forward no matter what the survey says. Su Beran asked if we talked to the coordinator of the MN Friendly Farmer Program to help design the MN River Friendly Label Program.

Action Item: Su will provide contact information for the MN River Friendly Program to Scott Kudelka.

Scott Kudelka provided copies of the fall issue of the River Talk Newsletter and flyer for the Carrie Jennings’ presentation on the “Geology of the MN River” in Montevideo on January 10th.
Larry Gunderson reported that the communication strategy for the MN River Watershed is still being put together by the MPCA interns. Further information on this strategy will be forthcoming.

Participant Survey:
Michael Groh presented the results of the Participant Survey sent out to 100 people who have attended at least one Watershed Alliance meeting. 39 people responded, giving us almost a 40% return rate and high enough to draw inferences. Of those who didn’t respond, the Watershed Alliance is doing a good job, people are boycotting the organization or they don’t have an opinion one way or another.
Overwhelming the respondents rejected the idea of focusing on just one issue by a margin of 3 to 1. They want to have 2 or more issues to work on. From the top 8 issues chosen by the participants we need to par it down to 2, 3 or 4 issues for 2008.
Clean Water,
Sustainable Agriculture Development & Promotion,
Marketing & Communicating about the Watershed,
Farm Bill Policy,
Drainage Reform,
Mobilizing Citizens to Speak as One Voice,
Energy Issues as They Affect the Minnesota River,
Funding for Organizations Working in the Watershed

Action Item: Michael will take out the individual comments on Scott Kudelka’s performance and review them with Scott one-on-one. The group agreed this is appropriate and worthwhile for Scott’s ongoing development.

A significant number of the respondents have participated in Watershed Alliance activities. The top reasons for people being de-motivated:
Time constraints/busyness – 10
Egos, hidden agendas and self promotion – 8
Lack of progress/lack of concrete actions – 6
Travel distance to meetings (partially a aspect of a. above) - 5

Lori Nelson brought up the original Watershed Alliance agreement and how this was done with a major consensus among the people who attended the first meetings. She felt we are losing sight of the original agreement and diluting it.

A number of questions were proposed to the group about the survey and future:
Are people not coming because they are confident the work is being done?
Do we stick to the original premise of the Watershed Alliance? After two years do we need to change our original premise?
Where are the county commissioners, the people who make the decisions?

Scott Sparlin said communications in the MN River Watershed is the number one purpose of the Watershed Alliance and focusing on one issue is just icing on the cake. Scott said Scott Kudelka is doing a good job at pulling together information on what is happening in the watershed but the rest of us aren’t getting the information to Scott.

Jim Schafer talked about how people don’t know all the good work the Soil and Water Conservation Districts are doing.

Michael said the respondents want to continue with Michael Groh as the facilitator. They also said,
We like the idea of having guest speakers,
Meeting 4 times a year got 27 votes. No one wants to meet less and interestingly, 7 people want to meet more,
Michael said the respondents are either very satisfied or satisfied with Scott Kudelka’s performance and offered a variety of complimentary remarks.
A large majority of people are willing to participate in a strategic session.

Lori said the survey results should be related to the original agreement and we can’t lose sight of why the Watershed Alliance was formed. To communicate what is happening in the Minnesota River Watershed.

Other questions proposed to the group included:
What are we trying to accomplish as an Alliance?
Are we missing specific people?
How fundamental is that to our mission?
What are the implications of changing our mission?
What is the best way to use Scott Kudelka?

Dee Czech feels as an organization we need advocate adopting a kinship with the river.
Patrick said the survey is a feedback mechanism. We didn’t know if our original organization framework is working.

There was a feeling among some of the group that things are starting to germinate and come together.

Rich Smith pointed out that the Minnesota River Watershed is different than other basins because of its communication network and it’s the reason we are succeeding compared to other basins in the state. He talked about CURE – Patrick Moore and Duane Ninneman – being very effective in stopping the construction of the Big Stone II Plant and it was done through communications.

Both Patrick and Duane said it just wasn’t just them but an effort by a lot of people including the Watershed Alliance.

Jim Schafer asked why don’t we survey all the people to see what they want, what they can live with. Get a broad public input.

Strategic Planning Session:
Because the survey results call for a strategic planning session, a vote was taken by those attending on whether to hold one this year. There were a number of concerns about holding it too close to the holidays and whether to wait until next year. Scott pointed out Michael Groh wouldn’t be available in January or February.

Action Item: The group voted to hold a strategic planning session on December 4th (Tuesday) from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the New Ulm Public Library.

Action Item: A planning committee was formed of Patrick Moore, Lori Nelson, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Shannon Fisher, Scott Kudelka and Michael Groh.

Action Item: An invitation will be put together and mailed out to all the participants of the Watershed Alliance. We will ask people to RSVP if they are planning to attend the session.

Action Item: Patrick Moore asked the group to get started on planning for this strategic session at tonight’s meeting. The group came up with a list of Weaknesses, Strengths and Questions:

· We have never developed a communication plan/template – how to hit the general public
· Declining Attendance
· Insufficient Diversity
· Sustainable Funding

· Passion
· Talented Core Group
· Agreement / Mission
· Diversity / Potential
· Increasing consciousness of a land ethnic
· Access to media, communication professionals
· Alliance communications coordinator

1. How can we broaden our communication of events and activities,
2. How do we work with MRB, BWSR, strategic partnerships, etc. to advance our mission,
3. Energy issues as part of sustainable agriculture,
4. How important is scenic beauty – mining strategy to address Dunnick legislative strategy initiative,
5. Water protection / filter strips
6. Air quality / mercury,
7. Atrazine (corn herbicide)
8. How do we address CRP Acres Pull Out,
9. How can we help promote sustainable Agriculture,
10. What is the major problem with the river,
11. What will be the number of issues we will be focusing on,
12. Communication,
13. How do we design ourselves to be an 21st Century Information Attitude Changing Entity

Next Meeting:
We will be hosting a Strategic Planning Session on December 4th starting at 5 p.m. at the New Ulm Public Library. This strategic session will help us identify issues we want to focus on for 2008. This will replace the January quarterly meeting. Michael Groh will be facilitating.

Patrick Moore,
Dee Czech,
Larry Gunderson,
Jim Wolf,
Kathleen Wolf,
James Fett,
Lori Nelson,
Scott Sparlin,
Duane Ninneman,
Su Beran,
Shannon Fisher,
Chantill Kahler-Royer,
Forrest Peterson,
Rick Schoening,
Rich Smith,
Jim Schafer,
Franz Allbert Richter,
Joel Wurscher,
Scott Kudelka