Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 20, 2009 Meeting Minutes

October 20, 2009 Meeting Notes:

For the last quarterly meeting of 2009, Twenty-six people showed up in Hutchinson to talk about what is happening with the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance (Watershed Alliance) and hear from others about their own experiences in the basin. As the facilitator for the meeting, Audrey Arner kept the group moving forward and enjoying themselves all at the same time.

Welcome & Introductions:
Dee Czech welcomed everyone to the Watershed Alliance quarterly meeting and introduced Audrey Arner as the facilitator for the evening. Audrey had the group introduce themselves and offer an observation of something they seen for the first time related to biota in the Minnesota River this fall.

MN River Paddler Program
Chantill and Brooke showed the group the revised designs from the suggested changes for each of the three patch/decals: Tributary, 335 and Extreme. Both decals and patches will be ordered to allow people to choose what they may want to display. Chantill will be ordering them in the near future. A question came up concerning the date on the one patch – whether it should be 10 for 2010 or another number like double zeros. The group decided to let the Paddler Program committee make the final decision.

To promote the paddler program, the committee suggested holding an event kickoff next spring – May or June – at the Rapidan Dam Park and paddle the Blue Earth River. The idea is to bring in the various canoe and kayak rental businesses to allow those people who don’t have their own to rent one. There will also be cool stuff including music, information booths and other stuff to draw people in. We are also looking to award some of the first patches/decals including the 335 to Tim Krohn and John Cross for paddling the entire Minnesota River twice. Patrick said hosting an event like this is a great idea and offered CURE’s support to publicize the event. Once again, the group voted to let the committee decide on a date for the event and get back to everyone by the January meeting.

MN River Friendly Label
Scott reported that Linda Meschke had to bow out as the lead in developing a river friendly label because she has too much on her plate. A draft application form has been developed but not discussed by the committee nor has there been any effort to start pulling names of potential businesses and organizations to receive this label. With no one willing to step up to take over the leadership role, it was added to the list of potential 2010 issues.

MN River Canoe Trail
Brad Cobb spoke on behalf of a sick Loran Kaardal, telling the group about the Green Corridor Project tentatively receiving the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program grant to work on developing a plan for a canoe trail in the middle section of the Minnesota River. It will be official once they get the letter. Even though it isn’t official, this project – the Green Corridor – Minnesota River Trail – has been nominated for a Mid America Trails & Greenways Conference award.

According to Brad, a grant application will be submitted for other segments in the Minnesota River in the future. Volunteers will be needed to help promote the trail and its development in the other segments. The current stretch is for about 40 to 50 miles from Granite Falls to New Ulm. Randy Thoreson of the National Park Service will be coming to do a full presentation to the group in the future. Brad told the group to look for a press release about the grant in a couple of months. The grant pays for a National Park Service employee to work on behalf of the group on coordinating the planning process, identifying funding sources, developing a stakeholder process.

Patrick Moore informed the group about the plan to remove the Minnesota River Falls dam below Granite Falls and what has happened so far. An open house was held by Xcel Energy which owns the dam and MN DNR in Granite Falls on October 1st. Barr Engineering is currently conducting a study of the dam and lowered the water level to see what the structure looks like. According to Patrick, Xcel Energy officials are looking for help in communicating the benefits of a potential dam removal to the general public. Ultimately it is Xcel’s decision about what is to be done with the dam. Most likely the decision will come down to the cheaper option. Moore was told that Xcel has offered to sell the dam to Granite Falls and the Ethanol as long as those entities take over the liability and repair costs. A local group including the ethanol plant and golf course has spoken out against the dam removal.

The dam serves as an obstacle for migrating fish and a barrier for recreation paddling. Removing the dam would have a lot of benefits for fish migration and people using the Minnesota River. There could be a lot of economic benefit and impact to local communities by removing the dam.

Minnesota River Magazine Concept
Kay Sauck of Sauck Media Group who publishes Womeninc is now looking at doing a state-wide Minnesota Rivers magazine instead of a basin newsletter for the Minnesota River. All of this has to do with subscription numbers, she feels a state-wide magazine will attack 100,000 subscribers compared to 15,000 for the basin. They have begun to advertise in newspapers a spring launch of the magazine and looking at it coming out monthly. No one knows for sure if they will focus on a particular basin in the one of the issues. Some people felt the Minnesota River has enough tributaries for their own magazine.

Coordinating Team Membership
Because the Watershed Alliance is loosely organized there is a coordinating team to help make decisions between the quarterly meetings. The charter states there can be up to 15 members, serving up to a three term. Patrick said the idea is to infuse the coordinating team with new members to promote new leadership in the Watershed Alliance. Responsibilities of the coordinating team include participating in phone conference calls between the quarterly meetings, serving on one of the committees and helping craft meeting agendas.

Coordinating team members at the end of their three-year term are Patrick Moore, Dee Czech, Shannon Fisher, Larry Gunderson, Scott Sparlin, Lori Nelson and Charlie Guggisberg. Other members of the team are Susie Carlin, Brooke Patterson, James Fett and Chantill Kahler-Royer, who came on board last October.

A number of individuals volunteered or were volunteered to serve on the coordinating team. They are Jesse Anderson, Joel Wurscher, Brad Cobb, Lee Sundmark and Tim Lies. Both Patrick and Dee agreed to continue serving on the coordinating team unless someone else would like to step forward.

MN River Presentation by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson got up to speak about his experiences of paddling the Minnesota River this summer with his wife. He talked about how great it is to be among kindred spirits and neat to find out what is happening in the basin. Darby said rivers really matter to him. He was pleased and surprised by the pleasant features of the MN River including the scenic beauty and rock outcrops. They paddled from Montevideo to North Redwood in 5 days. The two of them loved the sandbars where you could tell what creatures had been there, the pelicans as they glided off the river, the impressive bird life and how it wasn’t crowded on the river. Darby said nobody knows about this incredible resource, calling it a hidden treasure. He was also surprised at how many fields had at least a 50-foot setback from the river.

Disappointments for them included the Minnesota Falls dam with the DNR map being wrong about the portage. They found out quickly after spotting a large sign on the left stating – “Not a Portage.” Darby would like to see the dam gone. They also saw a number of black Angus cattle in the river, unloading a lot of phosphorus into the water. This was closer to North Redwood.

Challenges included the DNR canoe campsites. Darby said he felt sorry for the DNR to try maintaining these campsites when the river constantly changes. They had to keep moving when they couldn’t find a couple of the campsites. Drinking water can also be a problem if you don’t know how much you will need. There also needs to be some type of shuttle service to get people around. There is a need for more public land to develop campsites and signs are important because of all the private land. Darby was impressed with what the Upper Sioux Agency State Park had to offer

2010 “Clean up the MN River” Focus
Audrey broke up everyone into small groups of three to come up with ideas for the 2010 focus as a way to start the discussion on what we would want to work on as the Watershed Alliance. She told everyone to think about the possibilities and use our imagination to overcome some of the financial constraints. The group will pick the 2010 focus issue at the January 19, 2010 meeting. Audrey also highlighted Jim Schafer’s comment, “I want to leave more than I take.”

The list of ideas the individual groups came up with:
· Continue with MN River Friendly Label
· Compare and study land use types for 50 feet setback along waterways and county enforcement process
· Assemble local groups on guided canoe trips.
· Mark bridge crossings with signs and identification along with other watercourses including ditches and cool spots
· Keep meeting quarterly – networking and speakers.
· Communicate Lake Pepin TMDL – a big deal – Act as a bridge between landowners and Lake Pepin folks
· Roll out the River Patches
· Participate with Minnesota River documentary and interactive web site
· Carry one another’s messages
· Promote the national heritage area status
· Drinking water – keeping it clean
· Host Governor’s Fishing Opener and highlight possibilities

Lake Pepin TMDL
Michael McKay of the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance came out to talk about the upcoming Lake Pepin TMDL and how the Minnesota River has a major impact on its success. He provided a commentary on how their group got going. They started out with the science to see what was real and surprised at how helpful the professionals gathering the data were. An overwhelming amount of work has been done in this area. A web site has been developed highlighting a number of different sections including science and law (setbacks and drainage rules). During this process they had to learn how to speak the government agency language. Implementing best management practices has become a major focus of the group.

Everyone around Lake Pepin has become involved in the group including marina owners, cities, townships, etc. The group has grown fast to over 400 people. They try to put out a monthly mailing and get the cities involved and educated. According to Michael, this is a true citizen group and they have been invited everywhere and as a result hold a lot of power. They realize since the science says 80 to 90% of the sediment and phosphorus comes from the Minnesota River they need to slow it down on the landscape otherwise they are wasting their time. The group understands they need to talk with the citizens in the Minnesota River.

U.S. Corps of Engineers Watershed Assessment Project
Michael Wyatt of the U.S. Corps of Engineers attended the meeting to introduce himself and get to know the people in the basin. The Corps of Engineers are moving forward with a watershed assessment of the Minnesota River Basin after funding has been put in the President’s budget for this project. They want to create a fairly intensive model of the basin to hopefully be used for TMDL projects. The government has proposed $320 million to be budgeted for cleaning up the Mississippi River on the federal level. The U.S. Corps of Engineers is hoping to coordinate this effort with the U.S. EPA along with state and local agencies. Currently there are a handful of watershed studies going on in the United States, with this becoming a focus of President Obama’s administration.

Next Meeting:
The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for January 19th (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.

Chantill Kahler-Royer,
Brooke Patterson,
James Fett,
Al Odenthal,
Franz Albert Richter,
Brad Cobb,
Jim Schafer,
Jesse Anderson,
Patrick Moore,
Forrest Peterson,
Lee Sundmark,
Norma Syverson,
Su Beran,
Dee Czech,
Gene Jeseritz,
Mike Lein,
Tim Lies,
Dwight Swanson,
Jim Wolf,
John Hickman,
Dick Kimmel,
Darby Nelson,
Michael Wyatt,
Michael McKay,
Audrey Arner,
Scott Kudelka