Monday, October 13, 2014

Second Minnesota River Congress Oct. 30 in New Ulm

New Ulm, Minn. – Citizens who care about the land and water in the Minnesota River basin plan to meet Oct. 30 in New Ulm at the second Minnesota River Congress.
The first congress June 19 drew more than 100 people to explore ideas about creating a citizen-led entity among the scores of organizations active in the basin. Everyone is welcome to attend the congress at Turner Hall, 102 S. State St., New Ulm.
Combining ideas from the first congress with those from a series of regional meetings in September, the second congress will focus on the need for a comprehensive group and how it could be structured. A networking fair with displays by organizations is also being planned.
Discussion so far leans in favor of creating a citizen-led entity to foster communication and collaboration among the existing organizations, with a primary focus on the health of the land and water. Among countervailing points, the basin is too large and diverse, the issues are too political, and there are enough organizations already. 
A total of more than 100 people attended the September regional meetings in Montevideo, Fairmont, Henderson, Bloomington, and Jackpot. The meetings opened with brief overviews by Scott Sparlin and Ted Suss, followed by small group discussion of a set of five questions focusing on the need for a basin-wide entity, what it could do for existing organizations, and specific projects or tasks. 
Within its natural borders, the Minnesota River Basin holds nearly 11 million acres, more than 700,000 people, and thousands of farms and industries. Within Minnesota it has all or portions of 37 counties and more than a hundred cities and towns. All depend on its land and water. The people in the basin are represented by one or more of the many organizations in the basin. Yet there is no collective voice speaking solely for the land and water throughout the entire basin, for what they need to stay healthy and productive.
Organizers believe there’s a need for a citizen-led entity that is inviting and all inclusive for the many different groups active in the Minnesota River Valley, including agriculture, industry, natural resources, recreation, economic development, tourism, all levels of government, faith communities, first nations, and watershed organizations.

“We need to be able to speak with a more inclusive, unified voice,” says Scott Sparlin, of Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River in New Ulm. “This will be a place where every interest can speak and be listened to and respected regardless of their perspective. It’s a place to build exciting new partnerships and relationships through which we can recognize and accomplish common goals together.”
Pre-register for the congress by contacting the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River, PO Box 488, New Ulm, MN 56073. The cost is $15 per person. Admission is free for young adults under 19 or with a college ID. Admission at the door is $20. Networking fair space rental is $30. You can register for admission and/or the networking fair by mail at the above address, or register online:
Minnesota River Valley Congress schedule Oct. 30, 2014, Turner Hall, 102 S. State St., New Ulm:
·         4-5 p.m. – Networking Fair-displays by organizations, Turner Hall.
·         5 p.m. – Social hour and music.
·         5:30 p.m. – Buffet dinner.
·         6:30 p.m. – Overview-purpose of congress.
·         7 p.m. – Small and large group discussion.
·         9 p.m. – Adjourn.

Congress co-sponsors include: Minnesota River Watershed Alliance, Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River, Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, Water Resource Center-Minnesota State University, Clean Up our River Environment, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Earth Sabbath, Clean Up the River Environment, Wild River Academy, New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen, and the U of M Southwest/Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.
For more information contact Sparlin at 507-276-2280, A summary of the June 19 congress is posted on the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance webpage,