Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 20, 2010 Meeting Notes

April 20, 2010 Meeting Notes:

Participants of the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance gathered for their April quarterly meeting to talk about the various projects they are involved in. The group discussed the upcoming Blue Earth River Paddle and Minnesota River Paddler Program Launch on June 12th. This event will kick off with a paddle down the Blue Earth River from the Rapidan Dam County Park to Highway 90 at 9 o’clock and a Post-paddle Ceremony with music starting at 2 p.m. back at the park. Other topics of discussion at the meeting included the ongoing progress of the Minnesota River Film Documentary, development of a Minnesota River Waterway Trail, Minnesota River Valley – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour for late August and the possibility of a Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener to be held somewhere in the Minnesota River Basin.

Chantill Kahler-Royer welcomed everyone to the meeting by reading a note from Justin Kolander – “Wow, I just got done reading some of your group’s plans and goals and I must say Bravo!!! I really like to see people getting together to help out the area. You guys really interest me and I will be keeping my eye on your progress and hope to help some day.” After Chantill introduced Audrey Arner as tonight’s facilitator, Audrey had everyone talk about something that motivated them to go down the path of being advocate of the river or the natural environment. This was a great way to set the tone for the meeting.

Minnesota River Paddler Program
Joel Wurscher provided an overview of the official launch of the Minnesota River Paddler Patch Program for June 12th (Saturday) at the Rapidan Dam County Park:
*We will paddle the Blue Earth River starting at 9 a.m. from the county park to the new landing at the Highway 90 Bridge. This stretch is around 9.5 miles featuring a combination of fun Class I rapids, dramatic rock outcrops, high wooded bluffs, and a pair of tributary waterfalls. Depending on water levels it should take 3 to 4 hours.
*If the Blue Earth River receives a designation from the Legislature as a Minnesota Water Trails there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony before the paddle starts. We will know more from the Erik Wrede, DNR Coordinator hopefully in May. For more information on this program,
*The plan is to have people drop off their canoes or kayaks at the put-in point and park their vehicle at the take-out point. We will shuttle people back to the park for the paddle.
*After the paddle there will be a Post-paddle ceremony where the first patches/decals will be awarded. The highlight of this program will be to give Tim Krohn and John Cross of the Mankato Free Press both a Minnesota River 335 Paddler patch and decal for their 1998 and 2008 paddles where they wrote a series of articles on the Minnesota River Basin.
*The afternoon activities will also include music from Dick Kimmel and Co, Depot Creek and Lhotse. There will be information booths for area conservation, water quality, environmental, and outdoors groups and businesses. The Mankato Paddling and Outing Club will be providing canoe rides on the reservoir. The Rapidan Dam Store will be serving up their famous burgers and pie.
*Volunteers will be needed to help park cars, direct traffic, shuttle people, get people in and out of the water and other tasks. Please contact Scott Kudelka at or 507-389-2304 if you want to volunteer.

Minnesota River Waterway Trail
Loran Kaardal updated the group on the effort to develop a Minnesota River Waterway Trail. According to Loran, Randy Thoreson of the National Park Service (NPS), who is helping develop a plan for the trail, thanked everyone for participating in the earlier planning meetings. There will be additional meetings in the future. Randy will also be meeting with the Renville Parks Committee since three of their parks are found on the Minnesota River. Mary Vogel of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Changing Landscapes is developing individual trails plans for each of the counties and agreed to submit a Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) trail planning grant. This planning grant will incorporate all of the regional trail plans (hike, bike, horse, Scenic Byway, etc) and plan an extensive waterway trail system from the Lac qui Parle Dam to Mankato focusing on existing public resources. This grant will “piggy-back” the initial work being developed by the Green Corridor’s NPS Waterway grant.

Tom Kalahar of the Renville SWCD has invited members and staff of both the LCCMR and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) for a July 21st bus and waterway tour of the Minnesota River Valley. More details to come.

The Parks and Trails Legacy planning effort will be hosting 16 regional workshops across the state to gather input from citizens on how state monies should be spent for trail development in the state. The MN River Valley stakeholders need a strong showing and voice at these regional workshops/meetings especially at the Mankato and Marshall locations. Most people are only interested in hiking and biking. These workshops will provide a great opportunity to promote waterway trails. Please share this information with others.
· May 20th (Thursday) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center (13550 Dakota Avenue South) in Savage
· June 8th (Tuesday) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Bryant Lake Park (6800 Rowland Road) in Eden Prairie
· June 9th (Wednesday) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University (1501 State Street, Room 117, Conference Center) in Marshall.
· June 17th (Thursday) from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at South Central College (1920 Lee Boulevard E119 and E121) in North Mankato.

Loran wrapped up by talking about how Minnesota River Valley horse trail planning and implementation efforts are gaining momentum. Horse riding groups are some of the oldest organized groups in the state of Minnesota going back some 60 plus years. We ask of your continuing support of this Minnesota River Valley tradition/activity as these groups continue their efforts to secure a place at the table for future trail planning and development funding.

Minnesota River Film Documentary
John Hickman wasn’t able to attend tonight’s meeting and in his place, Scott Kudelka provided an update on this initiative. The Water Resources Center (WRC) agreed to serve as the official sponsor of the Minnesota River Film Documentary with Scott and Kim Musser from the WRC helping John Hickman and Jon Carlson the videographer coordinate the project. Filming has already begun with the segments from last week including Dr. Bryce Hoppie installing a monitoring station on Lake Titloe, the WRC staff in action and the landscape of the Minnesota River Valley. This week filming will focus on Carrie Jennings of the Minnesota Geological Survey talking about the valley’s geology. John Hickman and Shannon Fisher of the WRC will be attending the Minnesota Valley Trust meeting on May 5th present a funding proposal for the documentary and companion web site. The web site will strive to include all research done in the Minnesota River Basin - A partnership with the U.S. Corps of Engineers is being pursued as they launch a Minnesota River Integrated Study. The idea would be to incorporate ours and the Corps’ web site into one showcasing all the research conducted in the basin.

Audrey led the group in an exercise to identify possible subject ideas for filming. Ideas included:
*DNR Gateway Proposal that purchased 6 canoes and a trailer to be used for getting people out on the river – especially youth.
*The Lutheran Bishop Paddle on the Minnesota River sponsored by CURE.
*The LCCMR and LSOHC bus and waterway tour being organized by Tom Kalahar of Renville SWCD.
*The annual Belle Plaine River Fishing Contest that draws hundreds of anglers to that area of the Minnesota River.
*Franklin Catfish Days that draws people from all over the country.
*The New Ulm Sportsmen Club’s annual Youth Fishing Derby at Riverside Park
*Riverblast in New Ulm over Labor Day Weekend at Riverside Park which includes the Regional River History Center.
*The new Belle Plaine Wastewater Treatment Plant that uses a “reed bed” technology, a natural filtration system to treat sewage before entering the river. It was awarded MPCA’s Treatment Facility Award in 2008.
*Success stories of producers installing conservation practices – MPCA put together a series of videos called Water Success Stories.
*How CREP has been a major effect on water quality with this year’s flooding and sediment – restored an important ecosystem.
*CURE’s annual History Weekend and seeing exchange students paddle the river for the first time.
*Construction and impact of rain gardens on water quality.
*Shakopee Mdewakanton, Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux and their connection to the MN River.
*Wetland Restorations
*The story of commerce on the river like the steamboat Freighter who made it as far as 8 miles downstream of Big Stone Lake before becoming stuck. Or the mussel industry.
*Eagle nests up and down the Minnesota River including the one at Riverside Park across from the Regional River History Center in New Ulm.
*Other wildlife found in the MN River Valley
*June 12th Blue Earth Paddle Event and Lake Pepin Conservation Tour

Lake Pepin Conservation Tour
Patrick Moore wasn’t able to attend tonight’s meeting. Susie Carlin reported what she knew from working with Patrick on this initiative. No date has been finalized – they are looking at the end of August and it will most likely be a two-day event. Because it is being targeted toward citizen engagement, Friday and Saturday would be the logical days of the week to hold it on. A bus (maybe two) will pick up citizens from the Lake Pepin area to come over to the Minnesota River Valley to tour what is happening with water quality efforts. Most likely there will be a stop in New Ulm to spend Friday night with a social event to include folks from the Watershed Alliance and others. The big push is to get these two communities of river advocates together and have this as a positive kick-off for both groups to work together to improve water quality. We want to show the Lake Pepin folks there is a lot of cooperation among the two groups. Some people from the Minnesota River Valley will be invited to ride on the bus during the tour.

Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener
Lee Sundmark talked to all the DNR Regional Information Officer’s about this idea and all of them thought hosting a Governor’s Fishing Opener in the Minnesota River would present some unique challenges but no barriers they could see. Lee has also been talking to Terry Sveine of the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce who initially expressed a lot of skepticism but after talking it out feels it could happen. In order to make it happen it will cost between $120,000 and $300,000, which Lee feels we can easily collect by asking people to donate $1 to see the Governor fish the Minnesota River. Terry said it’s a unique way to raise money and it could be done that way. We would need an organization to handle the money and have a backup plan to spend it in case the fishing opener doesn’t happen.

Lee stressed we have a large geographic region with the Minnesota River being the only large body of water to raise money from and also get volunteers to help out. New Ulm would probably be the most logical place to hold it at with the convention center, motels and other facilities like Schell’s Brewery. Terry is willing to help out as long as we look at it as a 3 to 4 year project. A question about water levels was raised since the opener will be happening in May – potential for flooding. According to many at the meeting, it would have to be an exceptional year not to have access by the middle of May. Lee stressed, how could the Governor turn down hosting an opener where the money was raised one dollar at a time?

To raise the money Lee came up with the idea of producing MN River Governor’s Fishing Opener hats to give out to people who agree to help raise the money. Down the road we will be looking for letters of support along with commitments to donate time and resources. It was suggested to get the New Um Park and Recreation on board. Lee said, ultimately this event is to get more people connected to the river to build a passion among people for the river.

Tatanka Bluffs
Loran Kaardal told the group how the Tatanka Bluffs was selected as one of 16 nonprofit organizations to get a web site overhaul by the Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge. This organization specializes in creating websites for lawyers. Loran encourages the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance to apply next year to get a website overhaul, saying only one of the people from Nerdery knew about the Minnesota River. They had to pull an all-nighter, something Loran hasn’t done in years. Tatanka Bluffs’ web site: . Loran also mentioned the Dakota Wicohan web site at that was part of this Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge. The mission of this organization is to preserve Dakota as a living language. On the web site you can learn a new Dakota word every day.

Tatanka Bluffs is also working to develop a Minnesota River Valley Learning Center by acquiring the old Morton School. As part of this project they are working with the DNR to acquire the rock outcrop on the south side of the school. The Green Corridor Project has closed on 3 out of the 4 properties in the Cottonwood River near Lamberton with the 4th one being near Vicksburg Park in Renville County. For the new LCCMR proposal they are looking at purchasing ecologically sensitive areas in the Minnesota River Valley – granite outcrops, rare plant life, etc. Loran told the group if you know of any landowners who are interested in leaving their land as a legacy for the public to contact the Green Corridor Project

Next Steps
Scott reported to the group about the Water Resources Center pledging funds to pay for the upcoming October and January meetings. The Minnesota River Board is covering the cost for the April and July meetings. In October the group will need to start discussing how to continue to cover the costs for the meetings – facilitator, meeting space, food, and mailings. The group also briefly discussed the idea of holding the October quarterly meeting in St Paul in conjunction with the Water Resources Conference.

Audrey pointed out how everyone can help with the various projects the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance is involved in. You can volunteer to help out with the June 12th Blue Earth Paddle, provide ideas for the Minnesota River Film Documentary, attend one of the Regional Trail Workshops being put on by the MN DNR, come out for the Minnesota River Valley – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour’s social in August and help collect donations to put on a Governor’s Fishing Opener in the Minnesota River.

Next Meeting:
The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for July 20th (3rd Tuesday) starting at 6 p.m. at the Hutchinson Event Center in Hutchinson. We will start with a social hour at 6 p.m. with food and drink and begin the meeting right at 7 p.m. and strive to wrap things up in two hours.

Chantill Kahler-Royer,
Al Odenthal,
Jesse Anderson,
Forrest Peterson,
Lee Sundmark,
Mike Lein,
Jim Wolf,
Kathleen Wolf,
Ron Bolduan,
Susie Carlin,
Loran Kaardal,
Joel Wurscher,
Mary Borstad,
Randy Bullert,
Jack Laur,
Tim Lies,
Duane Niinneman,
Brooke Patterson,
Gene Jeseritz,
Skip Wright,
Marv Breitkrentz,
Deane Dietel,
Audrey Arner,
Scott Kudelka