Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July 17, 2007 Meeting Notes

Twenty-three people attended the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance in Hutchinson. Michael Groh, Independent Consultant served as the facilitator. Thanks Michael for keeping us on task and on time.

Michael went over the agenda for tonight’s meeting and explained the norms we would be following: keep it clear, share air time with the entire group, go for candor and we will keep it on time and on track.

Everyone was given a chance to introduce themselves and share any FYIs they wanted with the group in 30 seconds. Topics included the ongoing effort to raise awareness about water issues with the construction of the Big Stone II Coal Plant, upcoming public meetings on the Carver Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL, the potential for a MN River booth at the MN State Fair and the Blue Earth 3rd Crop Initiative.

Review April 17th Action Items:
· A support letter concerning the proposed Marsh Lake Study was sent to U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson.
· The summer issue of the River Talk newsletter has been finished and can be downloaded from the web site: http://www.watershedalliance.blogspot.com/
· Scott Kudelka has been working with a number of partners including the Greater Blue Earth Alliance, Mankato Paddling & Outing Club and MPCA to hold a “U.S. Congressman Tim Walz paddle. Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts and low water, this event will be postponed until either water levels rise or next spring.
· The Watershed Alliance will be sponsoring a MN River Geological Talk by Carrie Jennings of the MN Geology Service on January 10th in Montevideo. Look for more information in the future.
· Scott Kudelka has been working on a guidebook of the MN River Watershed and will be meeting with Adventure Publications.
· A core group of people – Chantill Kahler-Royer, Jim Klang, Edwin Dumalag and Scott Kudelka have started working to move the MN River Friendly Label from a concept to reality. One of the first tasks will be talking to businesses, organizations and others to gage their interest level.
· Patrick Moore reported that a number of the Watershed Alliance members did contact Kent Lokkesmoe of the MN DNR about the water drawdown issue with the proposed Big Stone II Coal Plant. There was enough pressure for Kent to send yet another letter to South Dakota proposing the reconvening of the SD – MN Boundary Waters Commission. The 3.2 billion gallon drawdown of Big Stone Lake would use twice as much water as all 16 ethanol plants currently use each year in Minnesota. According to Patrick, this is crisis situation and we need to keep the pressure on Governor Pawlenty to have him sit down with the South Dakota Governor. The Big Stone II Coal Plant also recently was granted a permit for another 3.2 billion gallons of groundwater for the Veblen Aquifer in northeastern South Dakota. In essence this amounts to a private corporation having control of more than 6 billion gallons of public water in an increasingly water scarce climate, creating what looks like an exploitative 3rd World situation in South Dakota – all so Minnesotans can have more dependence on coal fired electrical power..

Memo of Understanding:
· Scott Sparlin stated there has been a lot of misunderstanding or confusion on how this entity – Minnesota River Watershed Alliance – was originally organized and designed. We have gotten away from the original intent and need to examine whether it should be revised.
· According to Scott Sparlin, participants of the Watershed Alliance should be spending 40% of our time on the “Clean Up the Minnesota River” issue we designate each year and the other 60% communicating with each other on what is happening in the MN River Watershed. This should be done outside the quarterly meetings through the internet and other communication forums.
· Michael offered that if this is the case, maybe we shouldn’t be doing the 30-second introduction at the quarterly meetings and the agenda would only cover the one “Clean Up the Minnesota River” issue designated annually by the participants. If you don’t stay focused on specific issues there is the distinct chance nothing will get done. Scott Sparlin agreed with this comment while others had a different opinion.
· It was also pointed out that other potential items to be discussed at the quarterly meetings could be interrelated to the annual issue. Another question had to do with the funding strategy for the McKnight Foundation and when do we discuss this important item.
· Larry Gunderson said the Watershed Alliance helped sponsor the MN River Summit and there should be a happy medium between the original intent and how the quarterly meetings have been conducted.
· The bulletin board or list server set up the Watershed Alliance should be used for communicating our own issues but no one is doing it. There were also complaints the list server is not working properly and bouncing back messages.
· Scott Sparlin reported this isn’t a formal organization, we are a network, and otherwise we are just building an empire. If this is the case than he is out.
· There was a show of hands on how many people in attendance was part of the original signatures to the Watershed Alliance agreement. Only a handful of people in the room raised their hands.
· A question was proposed on whether we need to meet that narrow focus or broaden the intent of the Watershed Alliance.
· The group had a number of opinions on this question, including reinforcing the idea of having one issue to focus and allowing people to share their own issues. To go with a happy medium by allowing for people to talk about their own issues if time permits at the end of the meetings.

McKnight Foundation Fundraising Effort:
· Scott Kudelka reported the $5,000 match for the first year of the McKnight Foundation fundraising challenge has been met through a grant from Xcel Energy. For year two of the grant, we will be able to use the $4,600 from sponsors of the MN River Summit held in January. This means another $5,400 needs to be raised by November to meet the $10,000 total. For year three it will mean $15,000. Because it is a match grant we need to raise the entire $30,000 or we lose twice as much money. The McKnight Foundation wants see individual donations.
· A number of ideas have been proposed to raise the remaining funds including holding a raffle, putting together a book on the MN River Watershed and operating the MN River Friendly Label. Scott Kudelka said he is looking for other ideas and help with raising the funds. One proposal is to create a task force to work on the fundraising effort.
· A spirited discussion was held on whether it should be up to the communications coordinator to raise the funds needed for his position. Or should it be up to the members of the Watershed Alliance to help with the fundraising effort for the McKnight Foundation grant and not put solely on the communication coordinator’s shoulders to raise those funds.
· Richard Fish offered the idea of writing a check for $50 as a way for the Watershed Alliance members to help with the effort. Patrick Moore talked about how members of MEP (Minnesota Environmental Partnership) are assessed a fee depending on whether they are an individual or organization.
· Scott Sparlin said communications is the heart of the organization and the question is how do we make money off of a communications strategy – it has to be worth something.
· Another potential fundraising idea deals with the MN River Friendly Label. Shannon Fisher spoke about Jim Klang pushing this program in his work on the BMP Challenge and has gotten some positive feedback.
· Holding a raffle is one idea to raise funds instead of just asking people to write a check. Scott Kudelka said his proposal for the raffle is to use the talents of the Watershed Alliance participants like Scott Sparlin to take someone fishing on the MN River for a day. John White has offered to secure a cabin for a fly fishing expedition. It was felt there should be a combination of activities and prizes.
· It was recommended a task force should be set up to help Scott Kudelka raise the funds for the McKnight Foundation grant challenge. Scott Sparlin and Patrick Moore volunteered. Shannon Fisher said the fundraising effort should be part of the responsibilities of Watershed Alliance’s coordinating team.

The Minnesota River Communication Strategy:
· Larry Gunderson said the Minnesota River Summit and other communication avenues are not just for MPCA – it is for the entire Minnesota River Basin and the Watershed Alliance. The purpose of this strategy is to take a step back to look at the communication issues in the Minnesota River Basin and how to address them. To put together a product all stakeholders can use in their efforts. They should have a draft plan ready for the Watershed Alliance to review at the October meeting.
· Edwin Dumalag and David Hays of the MPCA provided a report on their work to gather information for the communication strategy. They are interviewing a number of people across the MN River Watershed to collect background information and data on current communication efforts to make an analytical analysis. The end product will be a plan of recommendations they believe will help organizations and individuals with their communication efforts.
· Edwin and David are looking for input to make sure they aren’t overlooking anything. They used the list of participants from the MN River Summit and in the process have been given other names to interview. Members of the Watershed Alliance would like to see a list of people being interviewed, a brief synopsis of the communication strategy and list of questions.
· Scott Sparlin talked about how he saw the Watershed Alliance opening the lines of communications about the issues we are all working on in the Minnesota River Watershed, along with interested public. He feels we need a vehicle to allow everyone the ability to talk with each other. Scott asked how do we accelerate the movement and said he was hoping this is what the Watershed would do. We need to be more aggressive on reporting what activities and actions that are going on in the Minnesota River Watershed. To get the information out to the greater public as quickly as possible.
· Scott Sparlin also spoke about the work Rich Smith is doing on the Internet II for creating a web site like Wikipedia. He said the technology is out there. Patrick Moore brought up the issue that the 20-somethings are the ones who know how to use this technology but they aren’t the ones making the decisions. He stated this isn’t the only forum we need to use, that we still need to reach out to everyone across the MN River Watershed. This isn’t the end all.
· There were a number of comments on how to move communication efforts forward in the MN River Watershed. This included hiring a 20-something intern to create a blog like Wikipedia. To form a task force to provide recommendations on how to turn this into action of what is happening on the ground. To make this a recommendation in the MN River Communication Strategy.

Minnesota River Music Project:
· Ross Gersten presented his idea of putting together a CD on the music influences of the Minnesota River. It is modeled after “The Mississippi; River of Song,” a Smithsonian Institute series for public television and radio that studied the music along the course of the Mississippi River. He sees this project as audio photography of the MN River and his way to give back to the MN River Watershed.
· Ross has proposed a budget of $10,000 which covers the production of 3,000 CDs to sell and than use the funds for MN River efforts. Ross is donating most of his time and effort to the project. At this time MPCA is looking at providing some funds – maybe half – for it. The other funds could come from other organizations and individuals. Patrick Moore said a total of $10,000 doesn’t seem to be enough money to do the project.
· Some of the group thought this could be a fundraiser for the McKnight Foundation Grant challenge. For a certain donation level people would get one more CDs just like the fund drives of National Public Radio.
· Mark Schnobrich talked about how many businesses, organizations, cities, etc are taking advantage of the Minnesota River name including Henderson, Fort Snelling and JAVA Coffee. He felt we should put together a list of all these entities and ask for their support to improve the watershed. It could also be a way to sell the CDs.

Clean Up the Minnesota River Issue – Conservation Enhancement Reserve Program:
· Scott Sparlin provided background on the fundraising efforts of the Watershed Alliance to help enroll critically sensitive land into permanent easements. This includes the $250,000 we received from the Schmidt Foundation. After talking to Board of Water and Soil Resources, Scott found out they couldn’t roll out CREP again for anything under $400,000. By using this program it would have meant getting a ratio of $3 out of every $1, which is what had been promised to the Schmidt Foundation. They looked at RIM (Reinvest In Minnesota) but that only provided a 2 to 1 output.
· Instead we will be using the MN River Refuge Trust Fund – Airport Settlement along with other organizations to leverage $2.9 million to put critically sensitive land into permanent easements. It means a $5 to $8 per dollar payback. This will include 820 acres of former row crop land and along Perch Lake in Blue Earth County. Scott said we have hit a home run on this effort and there was a lot of help getting this accomplished, especially from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
· After everything is finalized there will be a major communication effort to get out the word including an open house, most likely some time in September. Scott Sparlin will keep the Watershed Alliance updated on what is happening. Scott hasn’t talked to the Schmidt Foundation about the change but doesn’t see it being an issue. All the land is CREP eligible and we are getting more for each dollar spent.
· Scott Sparlin again talked about how this effort has been a success no matter how much money was raised and gave Shannon Fisher credit for getting it started at the Shallow Lakes Forum.

Next Steps:
· Scott Kudelka will have the meeting notes sent out to the Watershed Alliance members within a week.
· Scott Kudelka will put together a list of fundraising activities for the McKnight Foundation Grant and get it to the Coordinating Team for their review and assistance.
· Scott Kudelka will develop a marketing piece on the MN River Music CD Project to raise funds by asking for contributions to produce the product. Scott and Ross Gersten will come up with a formula on how many CDs a person or organization will get for their donation (example: donate $100 and you get 10 CDs).
· Scott Kudelka will contact Rich Smith about the Internet II idea and see about its status.
· Lansing Shepard and Paula Westmoreland will send Scott Kudelka the map and information on the Blue Earth 3rd Crop Program. Scott will send out to the Watershed Alliance members by e-mail.
· David Hays and Edwin Dumalag will send their contact information along with information on the MN River Communication Strategy to Scott Kudelka and he will get it out to the Watershed Alliance members by e-mail.
· Scott Kudelka will begin a list of organizations, businesses, cities, etc. who are using the MN River as a slogan.
· Scott Kudelka will start putting together a list of organizations, people, agencies, etc. to get information on what is happening in the Minnesota River.

Next Meeting:
· The final meeting for this year has been set: October 16th, to be held at the New Century Charter School. Please come prepared to make a decision on the next “Clean Up the Minnesota River” issue for 2008. Michael Groh will be the facilitator again.

· Patrick Moore,
· Dee Czech,
· Michael Lein,
· Larry Gunderson,
· Bob Hartkopf,
· Al Odenthal,
· Jim Wolf,
· Kathleen Wolf,
· James Fett,
· Richard Fish,
· Ross Gersten,
· Mary Peters,
· Mark Schnobrich,
· Rick Schoening,
· Scott Sparlin,
· Justin Valenty,
· Amanda Sneed,
· Su Beran,
· Paula Westmoreland,
· Lansing Shepard,
· David Hays,
· Edwin Dumalag,
· Scott Kudelka