Wednesday, September 05, 2012

August 28, 2012 Meeting Minutes

    Minnesota River Watershed Alliance meeting notes
    Aug. 28, 2012, Ridgewater College, Hutchinson
    Facilitator: Cathi Fouchi
    Recorder: Forrest Peterson

    Present:  Charlie Blair, Susie Carlin, Cathi Fouchi, Alice Hanley, Chantill Kahler-Royer, Scott Kudelka, Mike Lein, Patrick Moore, Al Odenthal, Forrest Peterson, Sebastian Remarke, Franz Richter, Elliot Schofield, Richard Smith, Erik Wrede.
    Action summary: The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance agreed to serve as the organization to nominate the Minnesota River for recognition in the National Blueways System. Part of America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the Blueways System "will provide a national emphasis on a 'source to sea' approach to river and watershed conservation, and encourage stakeholders to integrate land and water stewardship efforts by forming watershed-based, locally-led stakeholder partnerships." Charlie Blair, USFWS staff with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, said the Minnesota River has great potential for nomination to the Blueways System. Cathi Fouchi, of the New Ulm DNR office, will be working on the nomination form. The Alliance will seek out others to help; Susie Carlin offered to check on the availability of student interns; Patrick Moore will work on raising funds to support the effort.
    Meeting notes:
    1. 7 p.m. – Welcome and introductions
    2. Event and activity updates
      1. Patrick gave a review of Friendship Tour activities in the basin. A field day July 31 featured saturated buffers and bioreactors on the Doug Albin farm west of Hanley Falls. An Aug. 14 event at the Doug Hager farm south of Mankato featured Discovery Farm monitoring at a berm protecting a gully from field runoff.
      2. Forrest reported on the Aug. 20 meeting of the Agriculture Water Quality Certification advisory committee, which is beginning the process of selecting pilot subwatersheds for establishing criteria for certification. He also reviewed the Upper Minnesota-South Dakota Friendship Tour July 11.
      3. Susie and Chantill reported on the MRWA booth at Henderson Sauerkraut Days. They promoted the Paddler Patch, and provided water trail maps.
      4. 2013 Mayors’ Fishing Opener: Scott Sparlin, Patrick Moore, and Tim Lies will lead the committee; they need a catchy title for the committee. This project will be on the agenda for the Oct. 23 MRWA meeting.
      5. Minnesota Falls dam removal: Patrick reported that work on removing the old dam could begin in late September or early October. He suggested that the Alliance vote on a resolution at the next meeting, encouraging the DNR to acquire the Xcel property for public use. Oct. 11, CURE is hosting a dialogue on dam removal issues.
      6. Frac sand mining near St. Peter: Susie reported on a draft EIS for a frac sand mining site proposed near St. Peter by Unimin, a leading producer of non-metallic industrial minerals. It will be important for citizen watchdogs to follow this project; more information will be available by the Oct. 23 meeting.
      7. Big Stone quarry proposal: Patrick reported that the city of Ortonville is seeking to annex Big Stone Township, to pave the way for Strata Corp. to develop a granite quarry near the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The township has passed an ordinance establishing planning and zoning authority in an effort to stop the project.
    3. Minnesota River Blueway nomination
      1. Charlie Blair presented information about the National Blueways System, which is part of the America’s Great Outdoor Initiative. The effort focuses on conservation, recreation, and education. He distributed draft copies of the nomination description and form. The Connecticut River has been designated the first National Blueway. He said the Minnesota River has potential for being nominated one of six pilot Blueways.
      2. The program will be formally announced this fall followed by solicitation of nominations. A group of USFWS and DNR staff are working on a nomination, and it could be submitted by a citizen group such as the Alliance.
      3. Alliance members voted unanimously to serve as the entity for nominating the Minnesota River to the Blueways System. Patrick said he would work on raising funds; Several people are needed to work on this, and Susie will check on the availability of student interns.
    4. Minnesota Water Trail 50th anniversary
      1. Erik Wrede, DNR water trails coordinater, said a 50th anniversary event is being planned for June or July 2013. It would be a 6- to 7-mile paddle on the upper Minnesota River, and could tie into existing community events. Shuttle buses would take people to the start. A paddle event this past summer had about 130 participants.
      2. Minnesota started the water trail system in 1963. One of the first states to do so, there are now 33 water trails over 4,400 miles in Minnesota.
      3. Patrick suggested a route from Granite Falls to Upper Sioux Agency State Park. It will also be the 175th anniversary of the Joseph Nicollet visit to the area.
    5. Other upcoming events
      1. CURE is sponsoring an event Sept. 23 at Camp Release to commemorate the 1862 conflict. The event starts at 1 p.m. at Chippewa Village in Montevideo.
      2. Meander – Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl is Oct. 5-7. Friday evening there will be a local theater production in Granite Falls, covering 10,000 years of history on the river in 45 minutes.
      3. The Gustavus College Nobel Conference is Oct. 2-3 in St. Peter. The theme is “Our Global Ocean.”
    6. MRWA coordinating process
      1. Cathi Fouchi and Brad Cobb will help create the agenda and facilitate meetings.
      2. CURE will prepare and send flyers to promote the meetings.
      3. The next meeting is Oct. 23 at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson; science instructor Elliot Schofield will arrange for the meeting room.