During the networking portion of the night a number of Minnesota River enthusiasts were represented and attendees had the opportunity to grab a beer, mingle and learn. However, what was really exciting to witness was the further development of the Minnesota River Congress itself as it, during this seventh meeting, adopted, rejected and tabled resolutions to help shape how the group will stand on public policy issues.
Particularly inspiring were the apparent steps that the Minnesota River Congress took to ensure that all who had interest in the Minnesota River Basin were represented, including (but not limited to) people in agriculture, local officials and environmentalists. (No one said this process would be easy.) The past six meetings, which took place all across the river basin, have called for policy submissions from these groups, nominating their ideas to improve the Minnesota River Basin.
"The number one purpose that came out of those meeting was to have a body that could speak with one voice on public policy issues and that's where this [resolution] process originated," explained Ted Suss of the Minnesota River Congress, before he read some 20 policy submissions and facilitated their adoption, rejection or tabling. "We received 20 or 21 resolutions and they range from paddling access to drainage so it's across the board."
Among the submissions that were quickly adopted were those calling for improved recreational access to the river, funding for and the completion of the Minnesota River State Trail and the Minnesota Valley State Trail and the alteration of the Granite Falls dam to include a fish passage and whitewater park*.
Some of the more controversial resolutions submitted which sparked respectful debate and were ultimately not adopted included a requirement that surface tile inlets be buffered with permanent native vegetation for at least 100 feet and one suggesting landscape water storage practices including increased soil organic matter, drainage water in-ditch storage and more perennial cover.
Putting politics aside, what was extremely encouraging about the evening was to see this type of grassroots organization and our democratic process in action. It's through conversations and action committees like these that ultimately birth regional, national and global movements and help to spark meaningful dialogue and action.
-Your Friend in the Field
*There was a presentation dedicated to this project which can be the topic of a subsequent blog post. (Bias disclaimer: it sounded pretty B.A.)