Tuesday, May 01, 2012

April 24, 2012 Meeting Notes

Location: Ridgewater College, Hutchinson, MN

Facilitator: Audrey Arner

Minutes recorded by Forrest Peterson

Present:  Audrey Arner, Cathi Fouchi, John Hickman, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Scott Kudelka, Mike Lein, Gary Lentz, Tim Lies, Patrick Moore, Al Odenthal, Forrest Peterson, Anne Queenan, Franz Richter, Scott Sparlin, Lee Sundmark, Dwight Swanson, Jim and Kathy Wolf, Mark Bosacker, Sarian Otaibi, Elliot Schofield, Darwin Barrick, Cody.

The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance is planning to launch a 'mayors' fishing opener' on the Minnesota River in 2013. At its quarterly meeting April 24 in Hutchinson, Alliance members formed a committee to begin planning the event. The idea grew out of previous discussion about seeking a governor's fishing opener on the Minnesota River. The idea is to engage the mayors and their communities all along the Minnesota River to coordinate events on the annual fishing opener. It also relates to the federal Great Outdoors Initiative-Blueways Program, which also was discussed at the MWRA meeting. The upper Minnesota River is one of two state regions selected nationally for Blueways designation. The goal is to connect more people with the outdoors and natural resources. Other business at the April 24 meeting included updates on the Paddler Patch program, River Revival video, and Big Stone rock mining issue. With the departure of Scott Kudelka to DNR, the MSU Water Resources Center will continue to help facilitate the Watershed Alliance, continuing the Weekly Update and producing promotional material. Questions can be directed to Shannon Fisher, WRC director.

I.                     7 p.m. - Welcome and introductions

II.                    Committee and event updates

a.        Paddler Patch Program: Chantill Kahler-Royer said the 2012 Paddler Patch event will be Saturday, June 23 on the Rush River and High Island Creek, in conjunction with Sauerkraut Days at Henderson. If the water levels are too low, paddling will move to the Minnesota River at Henderson. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m. Canoes and kayaks will be available; advance notice is requested. This will be the third year of the Paddler Patch. It awards a patch or decal in three categories: Minnesota River 335 Paddler, Minnesota River Tributary Paddler, and Minnesota River Extreme Paddler.

b.       River Revival video: John Hickman reported that the project started three years, resulting in the “River Revival” video, aired in segments on Ron Schara’s Minnesota Bound, and in entirety on KARE-11. John and videographer Jon Carlson have now formed a business, H2O Videos, and continue to make videos about water quality. Current projects feature the Prior Lake/Spring Lake Watershed District, and the High Island Lake restoration at New Auburn.

                                                               i.      A 24-minute video will be shown in June when the Prior Lake WD hosts the annual meeting of the MN Association of Watershed Districts. The Prior Lake community has become highly engaged in the district; a channel has been created connecting the lake to the Minnesota River.

                                                              ii.      Scott Sparlin and Lee Sundmark helped advance the restoration of High Island Lake at New Auburn. An 8-minute video records the 3-year draw-down and water control structure installation, which have helped to transform the lake into a walleye fishery.

c.        Big Stone County mining: Patrick Moore reported that almost all of the testimony (18 of 20) at the April 17 Big Stone County Board meeting was in opposition to the proposal by Strata Corporation to mine the granite rock formations along the Minnesota River near the Big Stone National Wildlife Preserve. The next county meeting is May 1; a decision must be made by May 24. Winning the political battle now (only 2 ‘no’ votes needed) is imperative in the face of any legal battles later. There is broad support for stopping the proposal; this is a statewide issue and needs a broad alliance. One result so far is that many more people have been able to see the Minnesota River as a great natural resource asset. Facebook, blogs, pot luck suppers, social media are tools to continue the effort

d.       Great Outdoors Initiative/Blueways Program: Cathi Fouchi reported on the April 12 meeting in Redwood Falls about the two projects in Minnesota: Mississippi and Upper Minnesota Rivers, that received federal designation in the Blueways Program. The goal of the program is to connect people with the river, focusing on recreational resources. Discussion: A coordinator is needed to harness the many groups involved. There needs to be a balance of leadership among government, non-government agencies, and citizens operating as equals. The Arts Meander and farmer-led watershed councils in Iowa were cited as examples. Need communication-collaboration-leadership, focus on quality of life, evolution of relations among agencies and citizens. Need to get youth involved: use social media (must be ‘real’), locate and engage non-meeting goers, people already on the river. Make meetings like parties. Link to the wine, birding region. Seek national and even international attention as a destination. Overcoming the stigma of the Minnesota River as a ‘sewer’ remains a challenge. Need to convince downstream urbanites to travel to upper basin. Stigma has been receding, due to increased fishing, paddling, and outreach such as the River Revival video. A strategy should be to market the resource to smaller target audiences that might be more likely to visit. The proposed mayors’ fishing opener is a prime activity for this result.

e.       Mayors’ Fishing Opener: A meeting will be scheduled July 17 at Ridgewater College to begin planning for a mayors’ fishing opener in 2013. A small group will confer prior to plan the July 17 meeting. Chantill will place meeting details on the Alliance Facebook page; food and refreshments will be potluck. The project will engage the involvement of mayors and communities along the Minnesota River, to promote the river during the annual May fishing opener.

III.                  Future meeting facilitation: The MSU Water Resources Center will help facilitate Alliance meetings and outreach. It will continue with the Weekly Update, and help produce flyers and other outreach materials. Questions can be directed to Shannon Fisher, WRC director. Scott Kudelka, who has performed these duties for the Alliance, received applause and tokens of appreciation for his work.

IV.                  Next Meeting: The next Watershed Alliance meeting is scheduled for July 17th (Tuesday) at Room 158 at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.  Please note this is the same building, but a different room than before. The coordinating will take care of the details.