Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 16, 2013 Meeting Minutes

April 16, 2013, Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation office, Hutchinson
Facilitators: Cathi Fouchi, Brad Cobb

Recorder: Forrest Peterson

Food and refreshments provided by Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation and potluck

Action summary:

The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance has been invited by the U.S. Department of Interior to submit a formal nomination of the Minnesota River to the national Blueway system. The nomination document is being finalized and submitted. DOI is likely to approve the designation very soon, according to Jeanne Holler, deputy manager of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Doug Albin, representing the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, was a guest speaker. He described the many water quality research projects of the Minnesota Corn Promotion and Research Council.

The next Watershed Alliance meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16.  Possible locations are the water quality trading site in New Ulm, or a Discovery Farm site.


Albin farm research

Doug Albin and his family farm near Granite Falls in Yellow Medicine County. Accompanying Doug were Warren Formo, director of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center, and Adam Birr, who recently joined the research staff of Minnesota Corn Growers. An 80-acre field on the Albin farm is the site of major research project on the use of a saturated buffer, bio-filter, controlled drainage, and streambank stabilization.

Currently, the Corn Growers have 21 research projects under way. Research is partially funded by a voluntary check-off of one-cent per bushel of corn. A major focus is on sediment sources from streambanks and ravines, and nitrogen fertilizer. “Over the last five years we’ve learned a lot about the sources of sediment. Now we’re looking at the drivers,” Adam said. “We don’t influence research,” Doug said. “If a problem exists, not identifying it doesn’t solve it.” If science confirms positive results of the research projects, wider use could help water quality.

The saturated buffer impacts 12 acres at a cost of $3,600. The bio-filter impacts 22 acres at a cost of $13,500. All open tile intakes have been removed from the research field. Fertilizer application is calibrated and soil grid-sampled, which improves cost-efficiency and can reduce nitrogen loss. “We’ve got great soils, we just need to learn how to use it better,” Doug says.

When asked ‘what are the top three concerns of corn growers’, Doug replied: Regulation, regulation, and regulation. Regulation inhibits ingenuity, and going through the bureaucracy is challenging, Doug said. A key is education, Doug said: We need to sell the idea of long-term benefits, to identify things that have an impact, and have a continuing dialog.
More information about crop land research is available on the web at, on the Discovery Farms webpage of MAWRC, and the Clean Water Research Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture,
Blueway nomination
Jeanne Holler said that Rebecca Wodder of DOI called her April 4 saying that the MRWA has the “green light” to submit a formal nomination, and that she was impressed by the MRWA effort. Jeanne said the new DOI secretary, Sally Jewell, supports the Blueway program.
This is the most comprehensive application so far, and is a part of a pilot program of DOI in developing the Blueway system. It is also necessary to reach out to neighboring states with small portions of the Minnesota River basin: Iowa, North and South Dakota. There is a need for incentives to install best management practices.
It is possible that a designation could be announced as soon as the May 17-19 River History Weekend. When the designation occurs, all federal agencies involved will sign a memorandum of understanding to target funds and resources to the Minnesota River for a five-year period. There is also the possibility of initial federal funding of $2 million or more. Distribution of funds would occur much like a Request for Proposals process.
Next steps: Develop a work plan and communication plan. Plan a watershed summit. Establish a steering committee and sub-committees. Benchmark with the other Blueway projects (Connecticut and White rivers).
Mark Schnobrich
Jim Schafer
Norma Syverson
Dee Czech
Forrest Peterson
Chantill Kahler Royer
Kathy Dummer
Jeanne Holler
Chuck Andizzone
Gary Lentz
Brad  Cobb
Mike Lein
Scott Sparlin
Kim Olson
Patrick Moore
Charles Guggisburg
Warren Formo
Adam Birr
Doug Albin
Cheryl Glaeser
Barb Schuter
Cathi Fouchi
Dale Redetzke
Gary Davis
Deane Dietel
Jesse Anderson
Pey Furshong
Duane Ninneman
Sarina Otaibi
Dixie Tilden
Megan Ulrich
Chen- Qain