On September 27, the National Park Service Mississippi National River and the Friends of the Mississippi advocacy group released a State of the River report, assessing water quality on the stretch of the Mississippi running through the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. This report, which evaluates 13 indicators of river health, is the most comprehensive and accessible treatment of this kind in a very long time.
There are many reasons why this is an important report: Read more →
August is usually a good time of the year to take time away from work, but not this year! This is the first of three posts highlighting things that have happened on the Twin Cities Mississippi River and community over the past couple of weeks.
On August 17, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited MISS (the national park on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities) as part of a multi-state tour to drum up support for the Park Service and for Department of the Interior conservation programs. After an hour or so out on the river in the early morning–guaranteed to impress anyone–Salazar spoke to a group of National Park Service partners.
He reiterated the importance of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities and its status as a National Water Trail. Further, he reminded us that MISS features prominently in the most recent report of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, President Obama’s signature effort to devise a 21st century conservation and recreation program. AGO has three basic tenets:
- protect large regional landscapes for conservation at a broader scale than just a smaller parcel;
- provide conservation and recreation opportunities close to where people live, i.e. in cities and accessible to the diversity of people who live in cities;
- protect and enhance rivers and streams for multiple uses.
As a linear river corridor in the midst of a metropolitan area of 3 million people, MISS
The Mississippi River in the Twin Cities has been designated a National Water Trail.clearly fits two of these criteria. If we find ways to connect the 72 mile MISS with protected rivers above and below the corridor, then we can see the third criteria being met through a connected sequence of some 500 miles of protected riverway, centered on the Twin Cities.
The bioregional mantra is “Think Globally, Act Locally.” The Mississippi River is both a local system and one of the largest river basins in the world, so we have to act in our own back yard as if we’re protecting our back yard and simultaneously making a difference at the broader scale.
This recent article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal touches on many of the most important elements of this “double vision”: the “9 Things You Can Do” is a great list, but getting out and knowing the river through kayaking, walking along it, and really seeing it is important also. Read more →
This question comes up in my classes and in meetings fairly often. After all, reconnecting with our urban riverfronts seems such an obvious community development tool, it’s a surprise that the overall practice has only really caught fire in the past 30 years or so.
Three words: Clean Water Act. Enacted by an overide of President Nixon’s veto in the fall of 1972, the federal Clean Water Act provides the basic framework for water quality testing, monitoring, and the establishment of standards (“fishable and swimmable” according to the legislative language) for clean water across the country. Prior to the Act’s passage, our rivers were essentially open urban sewers, gathering and hopefully carrying away whatever detritus a community generated. Too bad if you lived downstream.
The Clean Water Act was a marked success, within the boundaries it carved out. Essentially, it governed outputs from what are termed “point source” generators of pollution, such as industrial pipes and sewage treatment plants. ”Nonpoint” sources of pollution, such as yards, and farm fields, are not covered, which has been a growing source of concern.
The Freshwater Society takes up the issue of reflecting on the successes and limitations of the Clean Water Act in the next Moos Family Lecture Series in Water Resources,. G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will give a free public lecture on the landmark legislation on Monday, June 25, in St. Paul.
A panel of three Minnesota experts will join Mehan in taking questions from the audience. They are: Sherry Enzler, a research fellow in the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment; Bradley C. Karkkainen, an environmental law professor in the University of Minnesota Law School; and John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. The 7 p.m. lecture will be in the Student Center Theater on the university’s St. Paul campus. For information, go to www.freshwater.org.
About the Freshwater Society
The Freshwater Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring people to value, conserve and protect water resources. Located in Excelsior, Minn., it has a long history of association with the University of Minnesota. Learn more at www.freshwater.org.
About the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences
The College of Biological Sciences provides education and conducts research in all areas of biology, from molecules to ecosystems, supporting applications in medicine, renewable energy, ecosystem management, agriculture and biotechnology. For more information about research and degree programs, go to www.cbs.umn.edu.
Although irony may be thought of as the “trope of our times” (and don’t get me started down THAT road!) it’s often tough to find irony when faced with an urgent threat to a valuable place like the Mississippi River. Irony requires the ability to step back, reflect, ask “what are we really doing here,” while the Asian carp threat brings out a tremendous sense of urgency and the imperative to stop talking and DO SOMETHING.
So I really perked up a couple of weeks ago when Brian Ickes of the U.S. Geological Survey showed a slide titled “The Great Irony of the Leaping Dragon Fish.” Ickes’ talk, which was a featured part of the National Park Service’s Mississippi River Forum Workshop on May 18, was listed as “Insights from both sides of the planet” concerning Asian carp. Read more →
I have been posting a number of articles and links on our River Portal microblog (Yes, we have one. And yes, you should read it. It’s here. Now go and read it. Good. You’re back? Now where was I?) about sustainability in cities, about the importance of public art in cities, about urban green infrastructure. What’s all that got to do with rivers?
Well, everything, I think. Here are some ideas, call them axioms, propositions, definitions, or what have you.
- A city that can’t take care of its drinking water, sanitary sewers, and storm water systems well, will inevitably degrade the “natural” water systems (creeks, rivers, groundwater) that permeate the city’s space.
- If the population of a city doesn’t know, or care, or love, the water upon which its life depends, then that water system will not sustain the city, or life in the city.
- If care for the city’s water systems is not inclusive, is not expanded beyond the “usual suspects” of contemporary environmentalism, urbanism, landscape design and planning, then that care won’t really “take hold” for the duration.
- Public art, and other “nontraditional” communication forms and forms of public engagement, are important ways to reach across the widely diverse and varying communities that form a city, and develop a more truly inclusive and engaged constituency for urban water sustainability.
- Responsible, thoughtful, effective engagement around urban water issues depends on active knowledge of multiple sciences, the policy and planning and “doing” frameworks by which “change happens,” and means of effective expression and engagement.
There are doubtless other key principles by which the relationships between cities and water (and by extension therefore, rivers) are understood, but these are enough. This business of understanding rivers, cities and the ties between them is hard!
So, I’d like to hear from you: where should this understanding start? What’s the most important piece of the puzzle? And did I miss any key principles in the list above?
Well, maybe the Falls themselves don’t need you–water seems to flow over them ok, per gravity and basic hydrology. But the elements of Minneapolis around the Falls Do need your help.
The Central Minneapolis Riverfront is poised to be the engine driving the city into the 21st Century because the City, its citizens, the Minneapolis Park Board and a host of other individuals and organizations have concentrated on the district for the past 40 years. Today, as a result of that effort, $400 million of public investment has created $1.3 billion in private contributions to a place that is arguably a World Heritage-caliber site. Read more →
Last month’s announcement that invasive Asian carp, including a specimen of the jumping silver carp, had been netted in the Mississippi River near Winona, MN, has generated a flurry of response. This post outlines a few of the threads that are now emerging, and invites responses on what is likely to be a long and complex issue.
The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) held a carp forum on the evening of March 19, at which several dozen people from the navigation industry, recreational boaters, state and federal agencies, and interested citizens spoke about their concerns relative to carp. No one thought the carp did not pose a menace, and there was wide agreement that something should be done. But what? Read more →
Big news around here is that a commercial fisherman caught a bighead carp and a silver carp last week near Winona MN (approximately 120 land-miles downstream of St. Paul. Here’s some of the coverage:
The news release from the DNR is here, courtesy of the advocacy group Minnesota Waters.
The DNR’s boss, Governor Mark Dayton, writes on the issue in Outdoor News, as Minnpost.com reported Monday.
Minnesota Public Radio covers the story with this account.
So it looks like the Mississippi River Fund’s meeting in two weeks is quite timely: ”Asian Carp: What Can We Do Now” will examine strategies that might be undertaken before Twin Cities locks open for the season. The meeting will be Monday March 19 at 5:30. Register and get additional information here.
The Minnesota Senate is considering a bill that would redirect funding away from renewable energy broadly speaking and limit research to projects in renewable electricity (no more research on renewable transportation fuels, conservation, or energy efficiency). Learn more at this Action Alert.
What has this got to do with rivers and a sustainable Mississippi River? The energy/water nexus is in and of itself very powerful: one of the largest uses of water in Minnesota is cooling power plants, for example. Conservation and energy efficiency can reduce our reliance on these plants, thereby perhaps freeing water for other uses.
Furthermore, the mercury pollution that is part of the impairment of so many of Minnesota’s lakes and streams gets here as airborne pollution from upwind power plants. Again, better energy conservation standards will ultimately mean less mercury in the lakes and rivers and a big step toward the Clean Water Act’s goal of “swimmable, fishable waters” across the country.
As John Muir said (and I paraphrase) “when you take hold of any part of the world, you find that it’s connected to all the other parts.” Look again at the Action Alert and help preserve all aspects of renewable energy research in the state.