Thursday, February 03, 2011

January 18, 2011 Meeting Minutes

Welcome and Introductions

Lee Sundmark of the coordinating team welcomed Lori Anderson of Ridgewater College and thanked them very much for hosting this quarterly meeting. Lee also encouraged the students from Lori’s Environmental Science class to have fun and participate, adding that they belong here as much as anyone else.

As a way to connect what is happening here at the meeting with the environment, the coordinating team will be reading a short message/passage about our relationship with the natural world as the beginning of each meeting. Forrest Peterson read a passage from The Language of Animals by Barry Lopez.

Audrey Arner asked each person to introduce themselves by say their name, where they are from and any affiliations they may want to mention. Each person was asked to keep it brief since we have a packed agenda. Audrey also mentioned the information packets on the Watershed Alliance and MN River Basin that Scott put together for the students to provide some background on what is going on.

The next item on the agenda was a report from each of the four projects the Watershed Alliance worked on during 2010 and one on the recently completed Communication Audit by Jenny Gieseke, a Master’s Student at Minnesota State University Mankato.

Minnesota River - Lake Pepin Friendship Tour

Patrick Moore provided some background on this initiative for the benefit of the students and others new to the Watershed Alliance. This project started with the idea of making connections between the Minnesota River and people living around Lake Pepin to see about helping each other with water quality issues. With the “blessing” of the Watershed Alliance, he began to make contacts with people in Red Wing and once they expressed interest it was off to the Twin Cities to learn about all the environmental groups working on the Lake Pepin issue. MPCA is in the process of completing a TMDL plan for Lake Pepin and everyone has been pointing at the excessive sediment and phosphorus contribution from the Minnesota River.

At around this time, Patrick began to attend meetings sponsored by the Minnesota Agriculture Water Resources Coalition, which was telling farmers to get involved in the TMDL process otherwise the long arm of the law was going to start telling them what they can and cannot do with water quality restrictions. This is where Patrick started a conversation with Warren Formo of the Coalition about collaborating together on connecting people from the two watersheds. In a Watershed Alliance meeting, Audrey came up with the title: “Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour.” They talked to 120 farmers from the Minnesota River Basin with 15 agreeing to go down to Red Wing to learn about the problem of Lake Pepin filling up with sediment.

The goal of the tour was not to let it be science dominated because it makes your eyes glass over but instead to make it conversation-focused. A number of organizations like the Minnesota River Board and Land Stewardship Project all donated time and resources to put on the tour including the Lake Pepin Alliance offering up free rooms. One of the ideas behind the tour was to create a different setting than people were used to. Afterwards a second tour was put on to bring Lake Pepin citizens up into the Minnesota River Basin to learn about farming including drainage, tillage practices, etc. to see what is being done to improve water quality and reduce sediment into the rivers. The group stayed overnight and toured a number of sites including a winery.

Patrick submitted the project to a statewide collaboration contest sponsored by the Bush Foundation InCommons Collaboration Challenge last November. The Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour was one of 200 entries, picked as one of the 20 semi-finalists and then as one of three finalists. At this stage each of the finalists got to make a video of their project to let people vote on which one should win. A videographer hired by the Bush Foundation called up Patrick to say all he needed was a river and a barn to produce the video. Patrick said no and convinced him to go down to Red Wing to interview some of the key participants. The Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour concept won the contest and received $25,000 to continue moving forward. To get the ball rolling the group will be meeting on February 7th and 8th in St. Peter. Now, Patrick is being invited to meetings involving the agricultural organizations like the Soybean Producers to keep the dialogue going between the two groups.

To see the video produced for the contest:

For a summary on the September portion of the Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour” go to

Minnesota River Film Documentary

John congratulated Patrick, CURE and everyone involved on the Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour saying it was well organized and showed how progress is happening. A brief background on the Documentary project was given by John. The original idea of doing a documentary showing the beauty of the landscape and what is being done to improve water quality was initially proposed by John’s friend Jim Wolf two years ago at a Watershed Alliance meeting as a possible “Clean Up the Minnesota River” focus but wasn’t chosen.

John felt it was a worthy project to pursue along with a web site to help people find the resources needed to improve water quality and get involved in the effort. The Friends of the Minnesota Valley followed by CURE and CCMR all jumped on board to help move the project forward. It was decided by these three nonprofit organizations that an institution like a University needed to be the overall sponsor. Fortunately, the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University Mankato agreed to be the sponsor for both the documentary and web site. This helped pick up steam for fund raising along with the ace-in-the-hole Jon Carlson, a videographer who as a producer for WCCO TV put Ron Schara on the air. They contacted Ron about the helping out and he agreed saying, “every time I do a talk somewhere I always ask why is that our namesake river – the Minnesota – is the dirtiest.

The McKnight Foundation has provided funding to revise the Minnesota River Basin Data Center web site to become the portal for what is happening in the basin. John ran through a list of people they have interviewed since the last Watershed Alliance meeting including Ron and Lori Bolduan with their River Ranger Program; Lee Sundmark, Al Odenthal, Scott Sparlin and others involved with the High Island Lake Restoration Project; members of the Upper Sioux Tribe; Warren Formo of the Minnesota Agriculture Coalition to get the farmer’s perspective; down in Windom to talk about perennial crops for biofuel production; Dirk Peterson, the new DNR Fisheries Chief and most recently, former Vice President Walter Mondale, who as a senator in 1976 helped sponsor the federal legislation to create the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They also filmed Gary Lentz and his short-grass prairie restoration project for over 5 hours involving the MN Conservation Corp, DNR, Audrey’s brother with his team of horses and the local high school football team.

Exciting news is that the documentary is scheduled to air on KARE 11 on or around April 22nd as the station’s focus gpt Earth Day. Four weeks before the airing date, Ron Schara will do up to five segments on his show Minnesota Bound to promote the documentary. This is a big deal. KARE 11 will be selling the advertising for the one hour slot allowing us to sell the sponsorships for the program. A major sponsorship will be $50,000 and a secondary $25,000 and opened to anyone who is interested. The sponsorships will pay to finish the documentary and design the web site along with distributing DVDs to schools, libraries, etc. throughout the basin. If enough money is raised there will be viewing parties on the night of the show.

John and Jon Carlson will be at the CURE annual meeting on February 12th in Montevideo and Davanni’s in Bloomington on January 25th doing a presentation on the documentary including four minute video highlights.

To check out the progress of the Minnesota River Film Documentary go to the web site:

Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener

Lee Sundmark explained to the group how there has never been a Fishing Opener held on the Minnesota River. This would be a great way to get people out on the river since many don’t think the fish are safe to eat. Terry Sveine of the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce is willing to submit an application as long as we help with the fundraising and manpower. Originally, the idea was to go for 2012 or 2013 and Lee talked about putting together a pledge form to get the ball rolling. That is before Lee got a hold of Carol Altepeter the Events Coordinator for Explore Minnesota Tourism who said that she needs to meet with us first to explain in detail on what it takes to host a Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener. According to Carol, a lot of people need to be involved in the planning and staging of this event. Carol wants to meet with us in February to do a presentation before she gets busy with the 2011 Fishing Opener. Lee asked for names for those who are interested in setting in on the presentation or to let him know. We would be able to tap resources from all across the basin for both manpower and financial resources. The opener would probably be held in New Ulm as a central location.

Minnesota River Paddler Program

Chantill started out the update by giving some background to the program with its main focus of encouraging people to get out paddling which hopefully translates into them growing to love the rivers and wanting to protect them. There are three different patches/decals: the Tributary (paddle 3 major tributaries and one stretch of the Minnesota River); Extreme (paddle a large selection of tributaries and 3 stretches of the Minnesota River for a total of 23) and the 335 Paddler (paddle the entire length of the Minnesota River which doesn’t have to be done all at once). The initial launch of this program was held on 12th on the Rapidan Dam County Park with a paddle on the Blue Earth River and an afternoon program featuring bands, food from the Dam Store and information booths among other activities. The morning rain shower cut down attendance for the paddle but quit by the time of the bands. Jesse explained how the paddler committee (Chantill, Jesse, James, Joel, Susie and Scott K) are working to continue promoting the program and are looking to hold a second launch this summer with CURE in the upper part of the basin. He asked for help to secure funds and other ideas for the ongoing promotion of the program.

Please send Scott Kudelka at any ideas you may have for promoting the Minnesota River Paddler Program.

Communications Audit/Survey Project

Scott gave a brief rundown on the completed Communication Audit that Jenny Gieseke, a Masters Student in Communication from Minnesota State University Mankato put together for the Watershed Alliance as part of a class project. A total of 38 people filled out the survey with 61% from a government agency (13 identified themselves as a current for former member of the coordinating team). Jenny was hoping to get a larger response from citizens. The Weekly Update and River Talk newsletter were singled out as the primary sources of communication among the group. One of the recommendations called for increasing the presence of the web site. Scott explained how Chantill and Tom are updating the web site on their own time. Hopefully the group will be able to dig into the audit in more detail in the future to see how we can improve our communications.

For the audit:

Coordinating Team Membership

Audrey provided the group with some background on being a member of the coordinating team with assistance from some of the members. Being a coordinating team member is pretty low key with the time commitment no big deal. The team helps draft the meeting agenda, assists in some aspects of the meeting, and gets together after the meeting to discuss how it went and how it could improve. Most of the commitment in between meetings is done by email and maybe a phone call. Members of the coordinating team talked about how it is rewarding and find the other members inspiring. Mike Lein expressed interest in being a part of the coordinating team saying he has been attending the Watershed Alliance meetings since the beginning and sees this as a way of getting more involved. The group overwhelming voted Mike onto the coordinating team.

2011 “Clean Up the Minnesota River" Focus

Audrey told the group to look at a list of items generated at the October meeting to pick an issue to focus on in 2011. The four focus areas from 2010 (Paddler Program, Film Documentary, Friendship Tour and Fishing Opener) all have momentum and would be tough to put on a shelf with others related to communication and fundraising activities. We are going to be voting on three of them and this will be a collective statement on what we want to be our guiding light for 2011 – how we fulfill the Watershed Alliance’s mission. Audrey also asked people to keep these three things in mind:

• Can everyone get behind the issue (most likely done on a volunteer basis and with passion)?

• What is the likelihood of success?

• Is there broad reach across the basin?

List of ideas for the 2011 Focus (including ones added at this meeting):

• Minnesota River Paddler Program (*)

• Working Together – Minnesota River Film Documentary (23 votes)

• Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour (*)

• Governor’s Opener (*)

• Alternative Opener (*)

• Improve and diversify Communications – Read North Country (17 votes)

• Focus on Fundraising including Federal, State and Tribal sources (19 votes)

• Minnesota Falls Dam Removal (14 votes)

• Urban Activities to Address Runoff (4 votes)

*It was decided by the group that these initiatives would continue to be move forward on their own.

Each idea was fleshed out on why it should be the Focus for 2011 by the group starting with the Paddler Program. People seemed to be motivated to own the patch or decal to put it on their kayak, canoe or backpack. The first launch seemed to be fairly successful despite the weather with people having a blast and the bands were awesome. Now the idea is to move this event around the basin to focus on other rivers. This year would be focusing on organizing another launch and promoting the program more intensely. The committee always welcomes additional help. Brad informed the group of this Clearwater paddling business on the Mississippi River that is looking to expand by establishing an office in the Minnesota River Valley.

Jim Schafer questioned whether the group should be focusing more on reaching the land user or land owner instead of the broad public saying we need to address this issue of Lake Pepin and how the landscape contributes to water quality issues. It was pointed out that we need to celebrate all the good work and a lot of the paddlers are farmers. We also need to address the urban areas with people living the Cities contributing pollution to our waterways. We need to bring attention to the good work being done in order to encourage others to get involved. Patrick said the paddlers are the people who show up to help and work. They are your volunteers. We need to provide events for these people to get them together. They are good ones to help connect people, the ones who keep the organization alive and moving forward. Another suggestion to help promote the Paddler Program was to partner with the Boy Scouts and other youth groups. It was also brought up that the DNR has a set of canoes available for rent at Upper Sioux Agency State Park. We should also look to Windom which sponsors a national windsurfing championship.

For the Minnesota River documentary, John told the group we need to do as much promotion as possible in order for people to learn about the airing of the documentary and the web site. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those people looking to become involved with improving water quality. More attention will be focused on the Minnesota River Basin and will help get people to join the effort on a long-term basis. There is a need to educate the public on what is going on and provide them with information on what organizations, agencies and others are working on water quality issues. John and Jon Carlson are hoping to interview a couple of more people including Dave Minge and someone from the MET Council to talk about urban pollution contributions.

Speaking for the Friendship Tour, Patrick threw all of his support behind promoting the documentary saying hopefully we get more people to pay attention to what is happening in the basin. Patrick said we can light up the same network that voted for the Lake Pepin video to create some buzz for the April 22nd showing. The Friendship Tour will continue to move forward with the Watershed Alliance as a sponsor but not requiring a lot of energy right now. This project will continue to evolve and the Watershed Alliance will be able to take all the credit and not spend money on it. Everyone (farmers, environmentalists, upstreamers, downstreamers, etc.) will be involved in this phase two of the Friendship Tour.

For the Fishing Opener, Lee said this project will get people down to the river to see what is happening and show how the river has tremendous fishing opportunities and beauty. By getting people down to the river they will start to take ownership and want to improve and protect the resource. There is no big hurry since the 2013 application isn’t due until October. There is plenty of time to do this and taking baby steps is the key to move this forward. By centering it in New Ulm we will be able to draw from many communities and organizations. Brad pointed out that past openers have focused on a specific community or resort where the benefit of the Minnesota River is that the entire basin will be the focus.

Scott Sparlin interjected with some thoughts about thinking outside the box. What if we put on a legislature opener or an alternative opener if we can’t get into the system to host a fishing opener, which will be unbelievably tough? Scott added that he isn’t sure we have the facilities to put one on. Instead, Scott suggested we make our own Minnesota River Opener with the same amount of media, same partners and draw attention from the Governor’s Opener. Reduce the impact on the environment by keeping people fishing here in the basin and hold it the week after the official Governor’s Cup. This doesn’t have to be in competition with the Governor’s Cup. It could be extremely popular – the Fringe Opener. Lee said after the February meeting with Carol Altepeter there will be a clearer picture on how to move forward with this initiative.

A discussion on raising funds for the Watershed Alliance brought forth a number of comments from the group including the goal of becoming more sustainable as an organization. The American Great Outdoor Initiative was thrown as a potential funding idea with Brad telling the group there are no funds designated for this program yet. Scott Sparlin offered that we should be tapping into existing resources like the Legacy Amendment, only we need to have local government unit be a sponsor. Another possibility discussed had to do with approaching the various American Indian Tribes in the basin including Mystic Lake Casino, owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The group also examined the upcoming 150th anniversary of the 1862 U.S./Dakota Conflict to be held in August of 2012. Brad told the group that the historical ramification of this event is still being talked about and discussed, although it probably wouldn’t be directed toward water resources. We as a group should still be consciousness of this anniversary. On February 8th the Minnesota Historical Society is holding a meeting at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park to talk about it. Brown County is planning a number of events in 2012.

Patrick Moore told the group it is necessary to add our voice to what is happening with the Minnesota Falls Dam and potentially the removal of this structure. The removal of a dam doesn’t happen often, especially this size and the project is of national interest. There has been concern about removing the dam among some community members in the Granite Falls including the local ethanol plant and golf course. Xcel Energy who owns the dam has presented three options – removal of the dam, selling the dam and its liability to another entity and replacing it with a set of rapids. Patrick suggested we write a letter of support for the ongoing discussion revolving around the dam and avoid picking a side.

Another suggestion had to do with reading the book “North Country: The Making of Minnesota” by Mary Lethert Wingerd as a group. The idea would be to pick a week for people to read the book and get together for a discussion. It’s not that hard to initiate and wouldn’t cost any money. You can get the book at your local library or purchase it from the Minnesota Historical Society. For more information on the book:

The last item of discussion involved promoting urban conservation activities. Mike Lein said Carver County did an expensive survey a number of years ago that identified women in the household were usually the ones who decided on whether to recycle or not and wanted to be told how to do it. Installing conservation practices is something residents in the cities can do to help improve water quality and something people can get behind. Carver County sold truck loads of rain barrels. Scott Sparlin talked about the Community Cleanups for Water Quality program being very successful but would like to see even more successful. It needs to be expanded throughout the Minnesota River Basin. The program is something that is grass roots and a way for people in urban areas to say they are doing their part. The Watershed Alliance should be involved in this effort.

The main purpose of the January quarterly meeting was to pick the 2011 “Clean Up the Minnesota River” Focus for the group to get behind over the next year. A list of potential projects were reviewed by the group and then presented to be voted on including continuation of the MN River Paddler Program, MN River Documentary, Lake Pepin Friendship Tour and the Governor’s Opener or an “Alternative” Opener along with new initiatives – Improve and Diversify Communications; Focus on Fundraising; Removal of the MN Falls Dam and Urban activities to address runoff. After additional input from the group and a vote for three focus items by everyone it was decided to move forward with the following agenda for 2011:

• As the number 1 vote getter, the group will dedicate its energy over the next three months to promote the airing of the Minnesota River Documentary on or near April 22nd (Earth Day). This is a great opportunity for the Watershed Alliance to be part of a major effort to highlight what is happening in the Minnesota River Basin when it comes to restoration activities and improving water quality.

• Continue promoting the Minnesota River Paddler Program including holding a paddling event in the Upper Minnesota River Basin with CURE this spring.

• The Lake Pepin – Minnesota River Friendship Tour will continue to move forward under the leadership of Patrick Moore and CURE with opportunities for involvement by Watershed Alliance members in the future.

• Governor’s Opener – “Alternative” Opener – Lee Sundmark and the Fishing Opener team will be meeting with Carol Altepeter of Explore Minnesota Tourism sometime in February to discuss what it takes to put on a Governor’s Fishing Opener and will look at the idea of hosting an “Alternative Opener” as a potential option.

• Focus on Fundraising had the second highest vote total and will be an ongoing effort by the Watershed Alliance members to continue paying for quarterly meeting expenses including facilitation, food and mailings.

• Improve and Diversify Communications was third with some ideas bubbling to the surface to move forward with this initiative including establishing a Facebook page and encouraging us to read together the book North Country: The Making of Minnesota by Mary Lethert Wingerd in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the US Dakota Conflict.

• Under the Minnesota Falls Dam Removal effort, the group agreed to write a letter of support for the ongoing community conservation about the possible removal of this concrete structure on the Minnesota River south of Granite Falls by Xcel Energy.

Next Steps

• Chantill volunteered to create a Facebook page for the Watershed Alliance. Chantill and Tom have put together a Facebook page at:!/pages/Minnesota-River-Watershed-Alliance/161305960584059

• Lee will set up a date to meet with Carol Altepeter of Explore Minnesota Tourism to discuss holding a Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener

• Scott will talk to Chris Domeier of MN DNR about a letter of support for the removal of the MN Falls Dam

• Al Odenthal and Kerry Wuetherich will put together a draft letter of support for the High Island Lake Restoration Project to be reviewed by the coordinating team.

• A fundraising team will be developed including Brad, Jesse and Lee.

Next Meeting:

• The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for April 19th (3rd Tuesday) starting at 6 p.m. at the Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.


• Patrick Moore,

• Al Odenthal,

• Forrest Peterson,

• Franz Albert Richter,

• Qian Jianhua,

• Jesse Anderson,

• Mary Borstad,

• Randy Bullert,

• Rob Collett,

• John Hickman,

• Chantill Kahler-Royer,

• Mike Lein,

• Dale Rebetzke,

• Kristy Rice,

• Jim Schafer,

• Scott Sparlin,

• Lee Sundmark,

• Norma Syverson,

• Julia Ahlers Ness,

• Gary Lentz,

• Soonja Briest,

• Katie Peterson,

• Josh Strate,

• Kerry Wuetherich,

• Marinda Neubarth,

• Amanda Ebert,

• Lori Anderson,

• Brent Fox,

• Audrey Arner,

• Scott Kudelka