Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 15, 2008 Meeting Minutes

Twenty people attended the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance (Watershed Alliance) in Hutchinson. Michael Groh served as the meeting’s facilitator.

Opening Announcements:
· Su Beran of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced the Lake Pepin State Conference will be held in Mankato on September 23rd and 24th. More information will be forth coming.
· As a fun fact on the Minnesota River, Scott Sparlin said there are 670 miles of beach compared to 300 miles on Leach Lake.
· Dee Czech told the group about the upcoming Earth Community Event to be held on November 16th in Mankato at the SSND Mankato Provincial House Conference Center. More information will be forth coming.
· Rural Advantage is sponsoring a round of Third Crop Walk and Talks running from July through September, reported Linda Meschke. This includes one on Vineyard Establishment and 3rd Crop Demo Plot Tour.
· Larry Gunderson talked about how teaching his daughter to fish is a whole new experience and he spent most of this time just helping her out.
· The $1,000 flathead catfish has been caught, according to Lee Sundmark of the MN DNR. No one expected the fish would actually be caught. The New Ulm Sportsmen Club and local radio station donated the prize money.
· Susie Carlin put in a plug for the upcoming Minnesota River Board Annual Meeting and Tour to take place in Mankato next Monday – July 21st

Fundraising Efforts
· Scott Kudelka presented information from Rose Consulting Service about a grant opportunity for the River Friendly Label initiative through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There would be two phases to this grant. The first phase is to secure a Planning Grant for $100,000 with a 50% match to do a Feasibility Study and Marketing Plan.
· The second phase has funding up to $300,000 to pay for implementation activities outlined under the Business/Marketing Plan. The one sticking point is that an agriculture-related organization needs to be the applicant.
· Kellye Rose of Rose Consulting had a number of recommendations for the Watershed Alliance if we want to pursue this type of grant.
o Create a limited partnership with an agricultural-related organization like the Land Stewardship Project.
o Work with a university or community college to write the Feasibility Study and Marketing Plan.
o In order to apply for the implementation grant or second phase, this study and plan need to be completed by March of 2009.
o For Rose Consulting to prepare the grant application would be in the $4,000 to $5,000 range.
· Linda said this type of grant has been used by many of the ethanol plants to conduct feasibility studies. The USDA provides funds to the Agricultural Research Institute to give money to producers, including for an oils lab.
· Patrick Moore reported how the idea behind the River Friendly Label came out of the 2007 MN River Summit. He feels this label would give the watershed a sense of place and we would be able to market ourselves and expand economic opportunities. To coordinate this program, Patrick would like to see us secure funding in the range of $45,000 to $60,000.
· The group discussed whether we should hire an outside consultant like Rose Consulting to write a grant to fund the River Friendly Label or do it in house with Scott taking on a leading role and also receiving help from others with experience in writing grants.
· In the end, the group decided to pursue other options and grant opportunities before hiring an outside consultant. A committee was formed to work on it with Linda Meschke, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Susie Carlson, Patrick Moore, Dee Czech, Michael Lein and Scott Sparlin all agreeing to help out.
· A couple of ideas were floated out to move the label forward including looking at a partnership with the Regional Sustainable Farming Network. Everyone agreed it needs to be broader than just agriculture-related.
· Another idea for the label project is to work with the MN River Wine Producers like Paula Marti of Morgan Creek Vineyard to dovetail on their efforts to create a special marketing region.
· Linda brought forth the notion of working with the local Resource Conservation and Development offices – Three Rivers and West Minn – on the label project. They have the expertise in grant writing.
· Action Item: The River Friendly Label committee will research a larger selection of grant opportunities and contact other groups to see about their interest in the project and report back to the group at the October 21st meeting.

Living Systems Project
· Steering Committee member Linda Meschke gave a report on how this project is moving forward. They are looking at funding opportunities with Patrick Moore preparing the background piece, Linda the narrative and Larry taking care of the budget.
· The committee is also working on identifying and recruiting 100 community leaders to take part in the process, with these champions taking back what they learn to their different sectors and communities.
· Right now a number of steering committee members are meeting with some of agriculture sector people to get them engaged in the process and in general with Minnesota River activities. The agricultural sector needs to be part of the project.
· To apply for funding, the steering committee is gathering support letters from as many entities and individuals to have a nice stack of them when they go to the McKnight Foundation and other organizations. Scott Kudelka informed the group there is a memo and support letter example for those people who want to take the information back to their organization.
· Linda mentioned how she has been thinking of a theme for the project, maybe something like “Minnesota River for the next generation.”
· The Living Systems Project is expected to be a three-year process with the first nine months to secure funding and gathering the 100 community leaders to participate in developing a MN River model. This project doesn’t focus solely on environmental issues but also business and social.
· Scott Sparlin reminded the group, this is the top priority for the Watershed Alliance over the next two years.
· Action Item: A fact sheet, memo and example of a support letter have been put together to help solicit letters of support. Members of the steering committee are also willing to attend meetings and other events to explain the Living Systems Project.

Minnesota River Paddle Patch:
· Scott reported on this potential new initiative for the Watershed Alliance and his conversation with members of the Mankato Paddling and Outing Club. The original idea came from Patrick Moore and the Prairie River Paddle Patch offered by Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) for paddling six CURE rivers (Minnesota, Lac qui Parle, Pomme de Terre, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Hawk Creek in the Upper Minnesota Watershed.
· One thought for this initiative is to have two different patches, including an “Extreme” one where you had to paddle something like 22 different stretches including most of the tributaries to the Minnesota River.
· Patrick said we need to make the patch hard to get, this is what will draw people’s interest to the Minnesota River. He experienced it first-handed at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this last weekend.
· Besides paddling, we could reward people for other river uses like fishing. This could help give the Watershed Alliance an identity and fill a niche no one else is doing in the watershed.
· To market the patch it needs to be web-based said Patrick. This is what appeals to young people who are looking for places to paddle. It needs to be interactive like Rich Smith’s Web 2.0 where people can share their experiences with others.
· The patch could also be part of a grant opportunity along with the River Label concept to showcase the possibilities in the MN River Watershed.
· The group voted to continue pursuing the idea of sponsoring a paddle patch and look at rolling it out in February and March. We already have a teaser for the patch through an article in the Mankato Free Press.
· Linda suggested we contact David Vogel of Minnesota Tourism to ask for his help with the patch concept and with grant money. Other groups to look for help includes the MN River Scenic Byway Committee.
· Action Item: A committee of Franz Albert Richter, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Brooke Patterson, Joel Wurscher and James Fett has been formed to research the paddle patch initiative and provide a report at the October 21st meeting.

Communication Report
· To save on time at the quarterly meetings, Scott prepared a report on his activities over the last three months and sent it out to group prior to the meeting. Scott also sent out the latest edition of the River Talk newsletter and the McKnight Foundation report.
· Some of the group said they are overwhelmed with email and felt we need to look at other ways to improve communications.
· Michael Groh provided a number of recommendations on how to improve an organization’s communication skills. One is to look at our sub-group interaction outside the quarterly meetings. He suggested we look at initiating a conference call where people would get a chance to talk with each other in an informal setting.
· To make it easier for newcomers to become part of the Watershed Alliance, Michael suggested we pair a veteran with one of the new people.

Other Items of Interest:
· Patrick Moore asked to hear from some of the new people who have just started to attend Watershed Alliance meetings. James Fett reported about his duties as the technician of the Maple River Watershed Project. He does all the monitoring and is starting a storm stencil project, along with helping sell some of the conservation practices. James will also be doing a presentation during the Minnesota River Board field trip.
· Brooke Patterson talked about her work as the coordinator of the Rush River Clean Watershed Partnership. She has been on the job for about a month and is working on the report for the first implementation grant phase. A Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL open house will be held for the Rush River and High Island Creek watersheds on July 28th (Monday) at the Sibley County Courthouse in Gaylord from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Brooke said Joel Wurscher of the High Island Creek Clean Water Partnership has been a lot of help.
· Patrick asked if any of them have been trained in community organizing to help turn out the public to events like the TMDL open house. There was a suggestion to spend some time at a Watershed Alliance meeting to share information about community organizing and the social side of water quality work.
· During a spirited conversation the group came up with an idea to hold a MN River Gathering to bring together all the newcomers and veterans working in the water quality field. One idea is to use the World Café format where people move from one table to another for a conversation on different topics.
· Action Item: Su Beran will look into organizing a MN River gathering with help from Scott Kudelka.
· Linda Meschke reported Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources will be putting out the 2009 Request for Proposals Phase 2 by the end of July. She also mentioned how the State Conservation and Preservation Plan will decide the direction of environmental funding for the next 10 years. People still have a chance to comment on the plan by going to Linda said there the document has some very good resources including excellent maps.
· Susie Carlin reported on the upcoming Minnesota River Board meeting and tour to be on July 21st (Monday) in Mankato. The tour will include visits to the Rapidan Dam, streambank erosion on the Le Sueur River, Maple River Clean Water Partnership and urban stormwater.
· Jim Wolf talked about how a collection of aerial views of the Minnesota River Watershed would be a great way for people to lean about the resource. He brought up a documentary on the Red River Watershed that was shown on Minnesota Public TV. The show had a great selection of aerial photos.
· Scott Kudelka mentioned the MN River Voyage by Tim Krohn and John Cross of the Mankato Free Press. Their series of articles have focused on people with a strong connection to the Minnesota River including Del Wehrspann, Patrick Moore, Scott Sparlin, Tom Kalahar and Joe Michel. There is a possibility of getting John Cross to do photo presentations of their trip later this fall. The group discussed the idea of setting up a web site with all the articles to promote what is happening on the Minnesota River.

Next Meeting:
The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for October 21st (3rd Tuesday) starting at 6 p.m. at the Hutchinson Event Center 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,
Lori Nelson,
Chantill Kahler-Royer,
Franz Allbert Richter,
Joel Wurscher,
Mike Lein,
Susie Carlin,
Linda Meschke,
Forrest Peterson,
Lee Sundmark,
Brooke Patterson,
James Fett,
Su Beran,
Scott Sparlin,
Scott Kudelka