Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 17, 2007 Meeting Minutes

April 17, 2007 Meeting Notes:

Eighteen people attended the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance in Hutchinson. Patrick Moore of Clean Up the River Environment served as the facilitator of the meeting. Thanks again Patrick.

Patrick explained the purpose of the Alliance and the meeting norms the group follows – Maintain clarity, keep it candid, remember humor, we strive to finish on time / on task, everyone shares air time and we have a bias toward action.

During the introductions, each of the participants was given an opportunity to throw out a discussion topic for the group to talk about. Topics ranged from the MN River Friendly Award to the “Relationship Naming” concept to Camp Release, Dakota War of 1862.

Review Action Items:
· Ron Bolduan has gone to four schools to do presentations on his CREP education program. There has been interest by teachers but they don’t want to focus on the CREP issue or interested in the fundraising aspect. Most say they are fundraised out. The teachers are more willing to do something in their backyard, whether it is planting trees or restoring prairie. Ron Bolduan and Scott are adapting the education program to fit with the needs and wants of the teachers. A grant request has been submitted to Xcel Energy to help with the costs, including travel, printing and postage.
· Lori Nelson and Lauren Klement are compiling a spreadsheet on potential funding sources for the Alliance and will be meeting soon with the rest of this group to discuss it in greater detail. Lauren talked to Three Rivers RC&D in Mankato and was given a web site to check out.
· Kevin Bigalke wasn’t able to make it tonight and sent an e-mail to the Alliance members through our Bulletin Board site. “Greetings, I wanted to update everyone about getting Pheasants Forever involved in the CREP fundraising efforts. I have talked with Aaron Kuehl, PF Regional Biologist in Southern Minnesota. I also sent him the flyer. He stated we would pass along the information. I am also going to be talking with Matt Holland, PF Conservation Director for MN, about it as well. The best though is for everyone to go to their local chapter and present the information in person.”
· A CREP flyer was developed by the group of Kudelka, Kahler-Royer, Thelen, White, Moore and Bigalke and sent out to all the Alliance members with the invitation to this meeting. This issue will be discussed later in the meeting under the topic of CREP fundraising campaign.
· At this time there is no action to report on contacting John Schneider and Bob Usguard of Ducks Unlimited.

Letter Writing Protocol:
· The fundraising letter has been updated to include information on the Schmidt Foundation’s grant of $250,000. This issue will be discussed later in the meeting when we come to the CREP fundraising campaign subject.
o A letter writing protocol has been established and posted on the Alliance’s web site;
o If an individual or organization is interested in having a policy letter sent by the MinnRivWA it needs to be submitted to the communications coordinator two weeks prior to the next quarterly meeting.
o Due to time constraints the policy letter will be e-mailed to the participants of the MinnRivWA for their review prior to the quarterly meeting.
o MinnRivWA participants will vote at the quarterly meeting on whether to approve, modify or deny the policy letter. A 75% majority of participants at the quarterly meeting is required for the MinnRivWA to take action on any issue.
o If a policy letter needs an expedited turn around, it will be reviewed and acted upon by the coordinating team of the MinnRivWA. A copy of the letter will be posted on the MinnRivWA web site: www.mrwa.blogspot.com
o Reviewed and approved policy letters will be sent out by the communication coordinator utilizing the MinnRivWA letterhead.

· A letter of support was submitted on the behalf of Minnesota Environmental Partnership grant called “Advancing Conservation” to the MPCA. This grant would pay Audrey Arner of Moonstone Farm to work on promoting strategies for achieving continuous living cover on the working agricultural land in the Minnesota River Watershed. Due to the short timeframe and important nature of the project, it was handled by the Alliance’s coordinating team.
· Scott Sparlin has asked the Alliance to send a letter to U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson for an appropriation in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conduct the initial phase of a Feasibility Study for the reconstruction of an existing dam on the Minnesota River at Marsh Lake and for the restoration of the last mile and half of the Pomme de Terre River to its original channel.
· There was some discussion among the members about individuals from government agencies like MPCA and DNR being able to sign their names to some support letters due to a conflict with an agency policy. Chris Domeier of the DNR spoke about how he sees his role in the Alliance as a technical advisor and not one of making policy decisions. The support letters are being signed as in behalf of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance and not as individual members.
· In accordance to the Alliance’s Letter Writing Protocol, a vote was taken on the Marsh Lake among the members present and a conscience of 75% was reached.
· Action Item: Scott Kudelka will send the support letter from the Alliance to U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson.

MN River Summit Follow-up:
· Larry Gunderson gave a brief description of what happened at the MN River Summit held in January and how this extended conversation will continue with a follow-up event on June 6th and 7th in New Ulm. An invitation to this event has been sent out to all the original participants to have four people from each of the ten stakeholder groups strategize in greater detail about what was discussed at the first meeting. Two system people have been hired to facilitate the meeting.
· The last ½ day will be open to all the participants who are interested in attending to look at the big picture, to talk about all the issues surrounding the Minnesota River Watershed, not just water quality. We will not be making any decisions; instead the idea is to keep this conversation moving forward.

The Minnesota River Newsletter:
· Scott handed out copies of the newsletter he put together covering issues about the Minnesota River Watershed. Under the McKnight Foundation grant, this is the one task spelled out.
· The newsletter highlights a number of regular topics including an organization spotlight, what is happening in the watershed and water quality issues. Scott would like to see a different member of the Alliance write about a well-known leader in the conservation field under the heading “Conservation Thoughts.”
· We are still discussing how to print and distribute the newsletter. One idea is to print 5,000 copies in black and white, then work with a group like the Corn Producers to get it mailed out to their members and than move to another group for the next quarterly newsletter. Each member of the Alliance will be mailed a color copy. The newsletter will also be available in the electronic form and on the Alliance’s web site.
· Action Item: Scott will begin working on the summer issue of River Talk. If you have any suggestions or thoughts for an article please contact Scott.

Upcoming Events:
· Scott has talked to U.S. Congressman Tim Walz about going on a paddle down the Blue Earth River this summer. Congressman Walz was very enthusiastic about this idea and has asked his District Director, Nathan J. Arch to set it up. Congressman Walz talked about how he has paddled in the Boundary Waters. The plan is to schedule the event on a Saturday in June (preferably this month), July or August and start below the Rapidan Dam on the Blue Earth River to Fords Crossing, a 2 to 3 hour trip. A lunch will be served either before the paddle or afterwards at the Rapidan Park. Lauren Klement recommended we include the Blue Earth Alliance in this event
· Action Item: Scott will contact the Blue Earth Alliance and continue to work with various partners including the Mankato Paddling Club on the event.
· Scott has also talked to Mike Davis, the DNR Mussels expert to do a mussels presentation in New Ulm on September 21st (Friday) and go out the next morning (Saturday) to look for mussels on the Cottonwood River. There are plans to serve lunch at Flandru State Park. This will be held in conjunction with the Regional River History & Information Center. Ron and Scott are still working out some of the details and logistics.
· There was discussion about doing a third event for this year in the upper portion of the Minnesota River Watershed. One idea floated among the group, is to have Carrie Jennings of the MN Geological Survey do her MN River Geology presentation.
· Action Item: Scott will contact Carrie Jennings to see if she is interested and set up a date and location.

Next Meeting:
· The last two meeting for this year have been set: July 17th and October 16th, to be held at the New Century Charter School. Michael Groh has been hired to facilitate the meetings.

Fundraising Update:
· As part of the McKnight Foundation grant, the Alliance agreed to raise $5,000 the first year, $10,000 the second year and $15,000 for the third year as a match. We need this match in order to receive another $30,000.
· For the first year, Scott has applied for a $5,000 Xcel grant to provide environmental educational programs to schools and other groups in the Minnesota River Watershed. Lori Nelson and Scott felt there is a good chance we will receive the funds.
· Scott has secured a contract with Sibley County to do some work in High Island Creek and Rush River watersheds including creating a quarterly newsletter, web site design and water quality monitoring. If the Xcel grant doesn’t come through, these funds will offset any shortfall for Scott’s salary.
· Other ideas for future fundraising efforts include putting on a raffle and offering once-in-a-lifetime prizes like fishing for a day on the Minnesota River with Scott Sparlin or paddle with Patrick Moore on the Chippewa River or spend a day photographing scenes of the Minnesota River Watershed with Ron Bolduan. The idea is to feature something unique that members of the Alliance can offer. We could have ten different prizes and offer ten chances at winning in a year. There was a lukewarm interest among the Alliance members; some felt it is too much work for the amount of money we would be able to raise.
· There were a number of recommendations to continue with grant writing for securing this match and to use the money brought in from sponsors for the MN River Summit as part of the first year match.
· Scott brought up the idea for putting together a guidebook on what the Minnesota River Watershed as a stable funding option for the communications coordinator position. He has approached Adventure Publications in Cambridge, MN about the idea and they are interested. This idea was well received by those in attendance.
· Action Item: Scott will begin to work on the guidebook.

Discussion Topics:
· Chantill asked about the status of the idea for a River Friendly Business program in the Minnesota River. An initial meeting was held with Jim Klang, Larry Gunderson, Bill Kell, Scott Sparlin and Dave Craigmile. Unfortunately most of the people interested in the program weren’t able to attend. Members of the Alliance are very interested in making this happen and it could be part of our fundraising efforts for the McKnight Foundation grant.
· Action Item: Scott will work with Chantill, Duane, Patrick, Rich, Ron, and others interested in this concept to put together a grant to help fund the organizing and planning stage. Everyone felt this would make an ideal grant application and be self-sustaining by having the businesses pay for the label.

· Big Stone II Coal Plant: Patrick Moore and Duane Ninneman provided the latest highlights on this controversial issue. The plant has now applied for permits to withdraw groundwater in addition to the lake drawdown. This permit asks for 3.2 billion gallons of water, or 8.5 million gallons every day from the Veblen Aquifer on the South Dakota side. The aquifer spring feds the Big Stone Lake and the amount of water they are asking for is more than what is drawn out at this time from the Veblen Aquifer. This has to do with U.S. Corps of Engineers requiring Big Stone to have a water permit for drought years. The cost for the permit is $2,500.
· Four pieces of legislation have been introduced this year in the Minnesota Legislature that deals with energy and the environment. The topics of the bills are renewable energy, energy conservation, biofuels and global warming. Governor Pawlenty’s energy imitative calls for no new energy that creates carbon. We need to stop importing power from plants that produce carbon. This is what the governor has called for in his drive to become a leader in this field, like the Governor of California. Minnesota already gets 75% of its power from coal sources.
· According to Duane and Patrick, the partners building Big Stone Plant are running scared and have been pushing this media campaign to influence MN legislatures by warning them the world will come apart if the plant is built by saying there will be rolling blackouts and 30% increase in utility rates.
· Air permits have not been issued. The U.S. EPA said it wouldn’t issue the permit the way it is written. Now the partners are asking South Dakota for a change of venue to build the plant without a permit. If this happens the Sierra Club says they will pursue a lawsuit to stop it.
· Where will we get our power if Big Stone II isn’t built: The seven partners who want to build this plant have done such a bad job implementing conservation methods, part of what this new plant would produce could be handled under this action, along with other alternative energy sources including wind.
· Action Item: Patrick and Duane are asking Alliance members to contact their legislators to ask them to support the Global Warming Initiative.
· Action Item: some of the meeting participants asked CURE for a template to be used to send to their legislatures on the Big Stone issue. Duanne will send materials to the Alliance members.
· Action Item: Patrick asked the Alliance members to contact Kent Lokkesmoe of the DNR to see what has been done with reconvening the South Dakota – Minnesota Boundary Waters Commission. They need to hear from someone else besides CURE.

· Middle Minnesota Watershed: Lauren Klement provided a brief report on the success of getting a number of grants for this watershed to improve water quality. This includes a Clean Water Legacy grant and funding from the 319 Program.
· Lauren also commented on the news report about Linda Meschke and the Madelia Project and how it got her husband Richard and co-workers talking about conservation and environment.

· Productive Conservation: Dennis Gibson passed around the 2006 Chippewa River Watershed Monitoring Report and talked about how it recommends putting 34% of the land base into a conservation model. At this point, 25% has already been done, with 9% or 123,000 acres to go. He said this needs to be understood as an opportunity for solar collection and now we need to bring it into a cash reality. This means putting together an infrastructure otherwise nothing will happen. We need to look at the Madelia Project. To plant switch grass to produce diesel and get out of the ethanol box. Diesel is more environmental friendly and uses less energy, which is what the Europeans are using. It also uses less carbon and a more friendly fuel due to the sulfur issue.

· High Island Lake: Kerry Wuetherich talked in depth about how they are running into a lot of road blocks with their efforts to improve water quality on this shallow lake. He provided his own example of moving to the lake 11 years ago and being able to swim; now they wouldn’t even let his dogs go in the lake. There have been some problems surrounding the Lake Association and Conservation Club. Now a meeting has been scheduled with the Attorney General to talk about it. They have also been working with the DNR to do a drawdown of the lake but nothing has been approved.
· Chris Domeier said they need to go to the watershed district and restore wetlands up in the watershed. This will provide the biggest impact for improving water quality in the lake. Patrick Moore said it’s going to be a long haul and not to get discouraged. You need to focus on the positive and figure out what do. Ultimately it is a culture change. Patrick recommended the lake association hire a college student as an intern for 10 weeks to go door to door for selling conservation programs.

· Local Government Accountability: Al Odenthal talked about his desire to see MPCA hold local government, in particular Sibley County accountable for the individual septic enforcement program. He provided a number of examples of how septic system installations are being regulated.

· Relationship Naming: Dee brought forth the concept of attaching names to ditches because it than attaches a character to it. Dee said we have done so much negative to the land and need to recognize we are dealing with a living land. She said, I can relate to the pain of Dry Weather Creek.

· How do we reach more people: In terms of what is happening in the Minnesota River Watershed and water quality, there is more interest.

· Rain Gardens: People are becoming more interested in putting in rain gardens but are struggling to find someone to do the work.

· LCMR: Jim Wolf asked what is happening with citizens becoming involved in the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources. Five citizens have been appointed to the commission, including Mary Mueller from Winthrop and Dawn Hegole in the western part of the watershed.

· Camp Release and Dakota War of 1862: Patrick talked about how the monument built in 1892 for the release of both white and half-breed captives by the Dakota Indians is under threat by the construction of a truck garage. According to Patrick, new documents and research have surfaced on how the Dakota Indians were treated after they released the prisoners and surrendered to the U.S. Army.

· Ron Bolduan,
· Patrick Moore,
· Dee Czech,
· Michael Lein,
· Larry Gunderson,
· Lori Nelson,
· Chantill Kahler-Royer,
· Dennis Gibson,
· Lauren Klement,
· Bob Hartkopf,
· Al Odenthal,
· Kerry Wuetherich,
· Chris Domeier,
· Robert Finley,
· Duane Ninneman,
· Jim Wolf,
· Scott Kudelka

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spring 2007 Newsletter

River Talk: the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance newsletter
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD the Spring 2007 Minnesota River Watershed Alliance newsletter (1MB PDF file)