River Connections for October 2014

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River Connections

October 2014

Mississippi basin projects recommended for Legacy funding

Legacy Amendment

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council voted Oct. 7 to recommend nearly $100 million total for 38 projects. The recommendations range from $442,000 to Cass County for acquiring key forest habitat lands up to $9 million to Ducks Unlimited for continuing its program to protect shallow lakes and wetlands. See the complete list on the council website.

Several of the funding recommendations would benefit the lower Mississippi basin, including:

  • $2.9 million to The Nature Conservancy for Phase 3 of its Southeast Minnesota Protection and Restoration project, which aims to protect and restore declining habitats and watersheds for important wildlife species in strategically targeted areas of biodiversity significance in Fillmore, Houston, Wabasha and Winona counties. The project would result in increased public access and expanded habitat complexes critical to the state.
  • $2 million to the Minnesota Valley Trust for Phase 6 of its Metro Big Rivers Partnership, designed to protect 500 acres, restore 54 acres and enhance 558 acres of priority habitat in the big rivers corridors in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • $1.38 million to the Trust for Public Land for Phase 5 of its Cannon River Watershed Habitat Complex project, an effort to protect about 400 acres in and near the Cannon River Watershed, including wetlands, prairies, Big Woods forest, and river and shallow lake shoreline to reverse habitat loss, improve watershed function and provide access.
  • $910,000 to the Minnesota DNR for its Southeast Forest Habitat Enhancement project to remove invasive species and facilitate regeneration of hardwood trees in Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, OImsted, Wabasha and Winona counties.

The funding recommendations will go to the 2015 Minnesota Legislature, which will make the final decision on awarding funding from the Legacy Amendment.

The council originally received 46 proposals totaling more than $221 million in response to its call for funding requests. The requests added up to more than double the $100 million expected in available funding for projects that protect, restore and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat.

Ideas flowing to next Minnesota River Congress

MN River Congress

Like a stream or river channeling its course across the landscape, the movement toward some form of collaboration among citizens, organizations, and all government units in the Minnesota River basin will begin to take shape at the second Minnesota River Congress Oct. 30 in New Ulm.

Voices heard at past meetings call for some type of organization to promote communication and collaboration that will help unify the scores of groups pursuing environmental, economic, and social vitality in the basin.

“The second congress will begin with a review of ideas gathered at the first congress June 19, and six regional meetings,” says Scott Sparlin, of Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River and one of the congress organizers. “We’ll try to define a mission, and then rank the top themes heard at the previous meetings.”

Following a review of the main purpose and themes, the discussion will turn to potential structures of an organization, Sparlin says. “It will wrap up with representation. Who wants to be represented? What groups or segments should have representation in this organization? We’ve been focusing on citizen leadership at a basin-wide scale.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the congress at Turner Hall, 102 S. State St., New Ulm. A networking fair with displays by organizations will be from 4-6 p.m. A build-a-burger buffet will start at 6 p.m.

Background on the basin

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 100 cities and towns. All depend on its land and water. The people in the basin are represented by one or more of the many groups 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.

How to register for Congress

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 and includes the buffet dinner. 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 go online for individual registration and networking fair registration.

Minnesota River Valley Congress schedule for Oct. 30, 2014, Turner Hall, 102 S. State St., New Ulm:

  • 4-6 p.m. – Networking Fair-displays by organizations, Turner Hall.
  • 6 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, U of M Southwest/Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, and Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance.

For more information contact Sparlin at 507-276-228 or, yasure@lycos.com. A summary of the June 19 congress is posted on the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance webpage.

On the menu: Input on action plan for Mississippi River-Winona watershed

Mississippi River-Winona conversations

The Whitewater River Watershed Project will hold a citizen-led conversation at a dinner Nov. 12 to gather input on a proposed 10-year action plan for the Mississippi River-Winona watershed. This action plan is the culmination of a holistic approach to protecting and restoring streams in the watershed, which included:

  • Intensive water monitoring throughout the watershed;
  • Assessing the waters to determine if they meet water quality standards;
  • Identifying conditions that stress stream life; and
  • Drafting strategies to protect healthy waters and restore impaired waters.

The dinner, from 5-8:30 p.m., will be held at the Tau Conference Center, 511 Hilbert St., Winona. There is no charge for dinner but an RSVP to 507-457-6521 is required. For details, visit the watershed project’s website. Seating is limited so call soon if planning to attend.

The watershed approach and dinner are funded by the Clean Water Legacy Amendment, with the MPCA as a partner.

Watershed Network meeting Nov. 18 in New Ulm

Check out the updated Watershed Network webpage for more details about the Watershed Network fall meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 18 in New Ulm. Topics and speakers confirmed so far include:: Natalie Warren, founder of Wild River Academy; Mark Gernes, MPCA, with the Restorable Wetland Prioritization Tool; Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan, Annie Felix-Gerth, MDA; Non-point priority funding plan; and Clean Water Roadmap. The network enhances communication and learning among watershed professional staff; it provides a monthly e-newsletter and hosts meetings in the spring and fall.