Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Forgotten river plays key commercial role

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Billions of bushels of Minnesota farm products have started their journeys to world markets with a 14.7-mile ride down the Minnesota River. At that point the Minnesota joins the Mighty Mississippi, and barges continue 1500 miles, where their cargoes are loaded onto freighters and sent into the Gulf of Mexico and from there to all points.

The Upper Mississippi Watershed Association, a group representing both commercial and recreational interests on the Mississippi and its major tributaries in Minnesota and Iowa, organized a paddleboat tour on August 22 to help focus attention on the importance of the Minnesota River.

Since 1982, what is now CHS, Inc., has operated one of the four elevators located at the Port of Savage on the Minnesota River. Since that time 29,000 barges have departed from the CHS slip, carrying 1.6 billion bushels of corn, beans and increasingly distillers dried grains and solubles, according to Clint Gergen, a representative of CHS who took part in the river tour.

Gergen noted that farm product traffic on the river has slowed, but he hopes that strategic changes might reverse that trend, in particular an effort to develop capacity to deliver non-GMO products to markets like Japan. A key to this, and to access to all world markets, is the imminent conversion of the Panama canal to make it serviceable for the current class of ocean-going freighters. (Currently, such freighters must offload their cargo onto smaller ‘Panamax’ vessels, in order to use the canal, and then reload onto larger vessels on the other end of the canal).

The touring party included journalists, government officials, academics and citizen volunteers who are concerned about river issues. The tour was funded by MNDOT, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Upper Mississippi Watershed Association.

Minnesota Department of Transportation sent several representatives, to speak to the importance of the river as part of the intermodal approach—meaning roads, rail, air and water transportation must all work in concert in order to achieve the highest efficiency. One of the effects of intermodality is that the various forms of transportation compete for customers, keeping the cost lower for all users.

“We keep the railroads honest,” said Greg Genz, with Kaposia Marine Service, and a representative of Upper Mississippi Watershed Association. Genz and Gergen describe the capacity at Savage, which CHS and Cargill continue to maintain. The two companies can load 40 barges daily, though current use has fallen significantly below that mark.

“If the river shippers weren’t there, the farmers would be getting hit with a lot higher basis for transport. That’s because the capacity is still there, hasn’t gone away.

A group of soil and water scientists led by University of Minnesota Prof Satish Gupta, and Warren Formo, director of Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center, both spoke to the question of sediment loading in the river. Gupta’s current research focuses on the role of groundwater seepage in the undermining of riverbank soil structure along the Minnesota. This seepage leads to slumping of riverbanks and huge volumes of clayey soil enter the river in this way and become suspended sediment. The tour took a run upriver to a bluff in Eden Prairie where the location of several high value homes has become increasingly precarious, due to this seepage-slumping effect.

The effect of the 2012 drought was very evident as the tour made its way both up and down the river. Along the entire length, it was clear that the river is well below its high water mark. Because of the reduced flow, the normally cloudy brown look of the river has become a light green—reflecting increased algae production due to how stagnant the water is.

One university scientist remarked that the high sediment load in the Minnesota River is a function of the relative youth of the river—it was only formed about 14,000 years ago, after the retreat of the most recent glacier sheet to cover Minnesota. The slumping of streambanks is the river’s natural process of achieving dynamic equilibrium. Left to its own devices, the river would eventually become much wider and shallower and the sediment load would drop dramatically. The scientist pointed out that riverside private property and other public uses make it undesirable to leave the river to its natural process. The science of managing streambanks, however, is also young.

When someone asked if anyone had considered riprapping the whole length of the Minnesota River—riprapping being the method of controlling erosion by putting a layer of rocks over that streambank—the scientist noted that the US Army Corps of Engineers studied a potential project to riprap 1,000 yards of the river near Rice Lake, and found that the cost for that one segment would be $1 million dollars.

 

What state TMDL reports sweep under the carpet: rainfall increases

(“Warmup has cities rethinking waterways” article published by Star Tribune)

Communities across the metro area and beyond are putting their heads together to figure out how to handle the increases in storm water that a warmer climate is expected to bring.

Public works officials, hydrologists, water quality monitors and others have embarked on a study to find where vulnerabilities exist and devise new solutions in the face of increasing — and increasingly intense — rainfall that has been both documented and projected by climate analysts.

The work is funded in part by $300,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and coordinated by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. It will continue into the summer of 2013.

…annual precipitation in parts of south central and southeast Minnesota has increased up to 15 percent in recent years; normal annual rainfall for the Twin Cities is 4.25 inches greater than it was in the 1980s. Statewide, Minnesota’s average rainfall topped 34 inches in 2011 for the first time in 121 years of record-keeping. The Upper Midwest saw a 31 percent increase in “intense” rainfalls — the statistical 1 percent events — from 1958 to 2007, over previous decades, according to the National Climactic Data Center. An increase in intense rainfall is regarded as one of the signature trends of a warming climate, due to warm air’s ability to hold more water.

Our Take:
It’s not just future increases–this Star Tribune article documents the incredible increase in precipitation Minnesota is already experiencing. Certain state agencies and special interests are so busy pointing the finger at farm drainage tile systems that they fail to mention the most significant source for increased volume and energy in our waterways (leading to greater stream bank erosion and cloudiness in the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin). 

It is raining more than in the recent past, and not just a smidgeon. The Cities have seen an increase of 4.25 inches in annual rainfall–at 34 inches average, that’s an increase of 14 percent since the 1980s. And multiply that by all the residential and commercial development in the seven county metro area–more than a third of its land area is now impermeable or semi-permeable–and so you’ve got an incredible increase in the volume of water racing into our rivers. Then there’s that pesky figure about the increased intensity of rainfalls–a third of our rainstorms are not just gentle, soaking rains, but the kind of rains that for instance dumped 6-inches plus of rain in a matter of hours in southwest Minnesota in early May.

Farmers want to work together with all stakeholders to solve our state’s water planning challenges. The next important step will be recognizing the significant change in our climate and what that means for plans to try to control what happens to rainwater.  Finger pointing and unrealistic expectations won’t get us where we want to go.

TMDL study–public money chasing the wrong solution?

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

It may be frustrating, but seven years studying the southern reaches of Minnesota’s Mississippi River basin is just a start in understanding the workings of the river, including the level of cloudiness and the rate of sediment deposition.

However, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has concluded its South Metro Total Maximum Daily Load Total Suspended Solids study, a study that covers the stretch of the river that includes Lake Pepin.

Similar TMDL studies covering the Greater Blue Earth River Basin and the Minnesota River Basin–tributaries whose waters ultimately flow into the Mississippi–have also been published. The PCA has opened public comment periods for all three studies–the 90-day comment period concludes May 29.

The studies will likely direct state projects that attempt to reduce turbidity (cloudiness) and sedimentation in Lake Pepin, among other water quality goals. These projects would be funded by the Legacy Amendment state sales tax revenue over the next decades.

Farm leaders had hoped for a more cooperative and comprehensive state about water quality challenges and potential solutions, and find instead that it focuses narrowly on agricultural contributions to the sediment load, excluding all other sources as seemingly insignificant.

Asked about where the TMDL study falls short, Steve Sodeman, a passionate agricultural water quality advocate, ticks off a list of items not included in the study: the increase in rainfall since the 1940s, the increase in groundwater consumption which generates wastewater entering the Mississippi, the outright dismissal of a notion that there is a background level of natural turbidity and sedimentation (in the past 11,000 years sedimentation and erosion have moved Lake Pepin from Saint Paul to its current location south of Red Wing), the increase in impermeable surface area in the seven-county metro and throughout the Basin, and finally the sheer size of the Mississippi River Basin, which drains more than two thirds of Minnesota’s land area.

Even with all three TMDL studies, significant portions of the Mississippi River basin have not yet been considered. The Mississippi River in effect drains everything in Minnesota, except for a line of counties along the Dakota border, which drain into the Red River of the North, and the northern tier of counties, which drain into either the Red River or Lake Superior. A few counties in the southwest corner of Minnesota drain into the Missouri River. 

Another significant blank spot is the role that increased precipitation plays.

“Since the 40s, average annual rainfall in the Basin has increased from 27 inches to 31 inches–that four inches is an incredible volume of water,” said Sodeman, who is a crop consultant in southern Minnesota. “When they talk about solutions, it makes me think of the CCR song ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain?'”

Water volume is at the heart of the issue because this volume increases the amount of energy in the river and serves as the main mechanism for putting sediment in the water–stream bank erosion.

Climate experts like Mark Seeley talk about a trend toward increased energy in rainfall events as part of an overall global climate change. Ten-inch flash floods, formerly considered to be once-in-500-year events, have occurred a number of times in the past decade, precipitating an incredible amount of stream bank erosion.

The PCA study focuses on the increased volume from farm tile system outlets to the exclusion of other sources of increased water volume.

Yet, PCA documents note that water consumption in the state of Minnesota has grown constantly and that about a fifth of that volume comes from groundwater. All that groundwater eventually ends up in the wastewater stream placed in the Mississippi by 14 Metropolitan Council operated treatment plants and a host of community wastewater treatment plants throughout the Basin. The Water Sustainability Framework Report (also funded by the Legacy Amendment) cites this startling figure: water consumption in Minnesota rose from 1,238 billion gallons in 1998 to 1,476 billion gallons in 2005–a 19 percent jump in seven years. Some 315 billion gallons in 2005 came from groundwater–in other words new water introduced into the river system when it entered the wastewater stream.

“It starts to feel political when this major source of increased water volume is ignored and the only source found to be significant is farm tile drainage systems,” said Sodeman.

University of Minnesota Soil Physicist Satish Gupta believes much of the dynamics of sediment transport remain poorly understood. He noted that more than 30 percent of the surface area in the seven county metro region is impermeable or semi-impermeable, and this figure represents dramatic growth since 1940. Despite holding ponds and other engineered features, it would appear to be reckless to claim that runoff from all this developed land does not contribute to increased stream bank erosion.

Sodeman said research has not yet provided a comprehensive picture of the way the river works and if it did, it might make for more realistic goals, he and other farmers feel. When it comes to halting sedimentation in Lake Pepin, he points to the case of a doctor who built his multimillion dollar home at the top of a bluff along the Minnesota River outside Mankato, and then spent another $350,000 to stabilize the stream bank–An incredible expenditure of wealth to assure that a piece of land several hundred feet between the bends of the river, would remain intact. Can Minnesota taxpayers support really make a dent by fighting a natural force that has been in operation in this region since the end of the last ice age? Spending on that scale along the length of the Minnesota is an impossibility, and Sodeman and others wonder whether it is in the end desirable to so forcefully counteract a natural process.

“There’s no debate when it comes to conservation–farmers are interested in keeping soil and nutrients on our land and out of our streams, lakes and rivers,” said John Mages, a farmer in Stearns County and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “Our worry is that these goals, as worthy as they are, will be seen as a solution where they can’t possibly deliver that solution. Our hope is to head off false leads and find real world, practical solutions where possible, but also to accept conditions that are natural and not easily changed, to accept them for what they are.”

Comment period opens for Mississippi and Minnesota River TMDL reports

Draft reports have been submitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and as of Monday, Feb. 27, the MPCA started accepting comments regarding the documents. The comment period lasts until April 27.

“Farmers have been involved in the process from the start and it’s important to remain engaged,” said John Mages, a farmer in Belgrade, Minnesota, and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “It’s important that we remain at the table, remain part of the conversation. We think many citizens will have views and information to contribute and they should take advantage of the comment period to assure that their voices are heard.”

The two reports can be viewed at the Minnesota Pollution Control web site.

The draft of the South Metro Mississippi TMDL study (focusing on points from Lock No. 1 and downstream, through the Lake Pepin region) can be downloaded at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=15794

The draft of the Minnesota River TMDL study can be viewed at 
http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=17108

Among the most important findings in the assessment of the source of turbidity or cloudiness in the waters of these two river systems is the increasing information about streambank erosion and the role it plays in putting both sediment and nutrients into the water.

The draft South Metro Mississippi TMDL study states: “The watershed to the South Metro Mississippi encompasses half the state of Minnesota and part of northwest and west- central Wisconsin. Within Minnesota, it includes 33 major (8-digit HUC) watersheds contributing suspended solids to the Mississippi. The MPCA and local partners are conducting turbidity TMDLs upstream on the Minnesota River and its tributaries, which contribute an average 74 percent of the TSS load to the South Metro Mississippi. The MPCA funded three major research projects to determine which areas and landscape features within the Minnesota River Basin are contributing the most sediment. Early results point to a steady shift from farm field- to non-field sources of sediment since the 1940s, with important implications for implementation planning.”

Farmers and water quality in Minnesota: “On the right track and ready to take it to the next level”

 Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

A packed auditorium in Morton last Wednesday demonstrated that farmers, and the crop consultants and farm businesses that serve them, are interested in water quality. University researchers and agriculture agency workers made a good showing as well, all enthusiastic about farmer interest in managing nutrients and soil to help achieve cleaner water.

It was the 2012 Nutrient Management & Efficiency Conference, organized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and sponsored by MDA, Minnesota Ag Water Resource Center, University of Minnesota Extension, USDA-NRCS, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Soybean Growers, Minnesota Crop Production Retailers, Minnesota Independent Crop Consultants, Agrium, Mosaic, and Nutra-Flo.

“Farmers in Minnesota are on the right track when it comes to nutrient management and water quality, and we’re ready to take it to the next level,” said farmer Doug Albin, who raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa in Clarkfield, Yellow Medicine County. He was one of several hundred farmers in the audience. The daylong seminar offered a mixture of reports on research and assessments of what is happening on the farm. Albin said the overall effect left him feeling energized about farming and hopeful about the future.

A series of presenters from academia and private industry offered the latest information about keeping nutrients and soil in place, and helping crops optimize use of these inputs through techniques like banded placement, and stabilizers that act like a kind of time-release to “meter out the nutrients just at the right time so plants can use them,” Albin said.

“We’re showing our interest in this kind of practical approach,” said Albin. “We can improve our operations and improve the bottom line and help the environment at the same time.”

In the morning, Warren Formo, director of Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, offered a review of all the research aimed at assessing the farm impact on water quality, and improving water quality results. This was followed by a panel discussion featuring crop consultants and farmers conducting a conversation about innovative techniques for improving nutrient management. The afternoon featured three different sessions: nutrient management, nutrient use efficiency and water quality.

Prof. George Rehm, director of Minnesota Discovery Farms program, was able to share the first year’s results in this farmer-driven quest for information about how soil and nutrients flow over the land. So far, eight farms have joined the program with sets up monitoring equipment to measure the levels and the movement of nitrogen, phosphorous and soil particles on their farm fields.

“This was very good basic information for producers that laid out the concerns about nutrient use and water quality and what we are doing to address those concerns,” said Tim Radatz, a research specialist for the Minnesota and Wisconsin Discovery Farmers projects.

Minnesota Discovery Farms has eight participating farms located in Chisago, Goodhue, Stearns, Blue Earth, Wright, Renville and Kandiyohi counties.

Rehm discussed first year data from three farms, in the Chisago, Goodhue and Stearns locations.

“The timing of runoff for this past year happened mostly during the snowmelt period in spring, because we had such a large snowpack,” said Radatz. “The sediment loss numbers were pretty low, which is a function of good management practices that reduced losses. Later in summer and the fall, the weather dried up so much there wasn’t enough rain to generate runoff. It’s important to stress these are one year results, and we need multiple years to really show what is happening.”

Minnesota Discovery Farms is hoping all eight cooperators will choose to stay in the program. Its application process ends March 1, and the program could add two or more locations. Ultimately, they would like to reach between 12 to 15 locations, to give a good representation of the diverse agricultural regions in the state.

(Go to www.mawrc.org to read the 2011 Minnesota Discovery Farms Annual Report, or to apply to join the Minnesota Discovery Farms network as a cooperator).

Other highlights in the water quality discussion included Brad Carlson’s overview of nutrient and soil loss and preventive approaches, as well as Jeff Strock’s review of results with an innovative approach called conservation drainage.

“Brad Carlson gave a good overview of the concerns with nitrogen, pesticides and soil erosion, as well as ways to limit losses out of tile drainage systems,” said Radatz. “Nitrogen and nitrate loss through the tile lines is a concern for local waters, but even more so for the Gulf of Mexico because it plays a role in the hypoxia issues they are dealing with. Surface water runoff is where we see phosphorous loss into streams and lakes, and that is what drives growth of algae in our lakes.”

Among the most promising ways to limit loss of soil and nutrients is the conversion of open tile intakes to French drains–the intake is placed several feet below the surface of the field and a funnel area is created out of pea rock, which effectively shuts soil out of the tile line.

“The research shows French drains are effective for removing sediment compared to open intakes,” said Radatz.

Jeff Strock, an expert with the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water and Climate talked about conservation drainage and water quality benefits for tile drainage. Strock has managed research into this method for a number of years at the Southwest Research and Outreach Station in Lamberton.

“There was good discussion about continuing the research to find out how effective these techniques are,” said Radatz. He explained, “Conservation drainage uses gate-type structures that can be put on tile outlets. The gates have baffles that can be raised or lowered to keep the water table higher in the non-growing season, but then lower the water table when is time to plant and raise crops. The baffles can be used to do a kind of sub-irrigation where the farm operator can manipulate the water table to allow roots access to soil moisture without getting drowned….It’s a new concept. Farmers are becoming more aware of it, but it is very new. We have four or five years of data. Farmers would like more info about how it is going to work, how it will affect their operations in particular. It’s also important to realize that this conservation drainage isn’t effective on highly sloped fields—it requires fields with less than one percent of slope.”

Other concepts like terraces, grassed waterways and the creation of holding pools with metered drainage can effectively address more hilly crop land.

“It was a good day,” said Albin. “The positive attitude that farmers have got about farming and about making conservation an everyday part of the farm is really great to see. The conference was a day for enthusiasm for agriculture. Farmers are coming in and finding out that what we are doing is okay, but maybe we can do it even better. Crop consultants and agency people heard from the farmers, yes, we want to do these things, but don’t stand in our way–create a system that makes it easy for farmers to participate and do what’s right for their farm and for the environment.”

Farmer’s response to water series brings balance to public conversation

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Dave Craigmile’s entry into full-time farming permanently set his gaze on the water gauge—he took over the family farm in Boyd in 1976, the year of the worst drought in Minnesota agricultural history.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Craigmile took up the gauntlet thrown down by a series on water quality and the Minnesota River that appeared in the Mankato Free Press last December. He worked with staff at Minnesota Corn Growers Association to develop an article that expresses the view Craigmile shares with many Minnesota crop and livestock producers: conservation is a way of life, and care for the future of our land, water and air is second nature to every farmer he knows. It’s what farmers practice every day.

His piece, “My View: For farmers, conservation is key” appeared in the January 10 edition of the daily newspaper. It has been published in a longer form in a journal called The Land.

“I wanted to offer a bigger picture,” Craigmile said about his decision to respond the newspaper series. “They are portraying farmers as being downright greedy with no care for the land, or for the future. The truth is that ever since the land was homesteaded by our forefathers, farmers have been very concerned. No farmer that I know of wants to see their topsoil washed down the Minnesota River or any of their fertilizer get away from them. We all use pesticides or herbicides that have been through thorough checks and balances at the US Environmental Protection Agency. Most of the time we even shorten up and use less than the label rate. Seldom do people use over label rates. Farmers are not using products willy-nilly with the idea of making more money—that doesn’t work.”

Craigmile emphasizes that he is far from a lone dissenter among crop and livestock farmers.

He wrote in his article: “I’d like to point out that I’m not the only conservation-minded corn farmer. The majority of corn growers in Minnesota are employing some form of soil conservation, whether it’s reduced tillage, strip tillage or grassy buffer zones between fields and feeder streams. Farmers have learned to ‘farm the best and buffer the rest.’”

Craigmile thinks the love and concern for the water and the natural world comes naturally to farmers, many of whom who had the experience of going to a country school. His early memories of walking through the swale at the edge of their farm property, about a third of a mile, to get to school each day are full of happy memories about discovering nature. Before and after school, along with all the other kids, he searched the ditch that ran in back of the school for frogs and minnows.

One of the key points of information Craigmile wants to get out to the general public is a correction of the impression that farm drainage is wantonly destructive.

“People seem to think tile drain systems on farms are like pulling the plug in your sink or pushing the lever on the toilet—just press it and the field just flushes the water away,” Craigmile said. “That’s not at all the case—all of these systems have a coefficient of drainage—and it’s rarely over a half inch. The Natural Resources Conservation Service developed this coefficient specifically for conditions in Minnesota. A half-inch coefficient means that if you had a six-inch rain, say from a Spring flood, it would take 12 days for that rain to runoff into the water shed. In combination with conservation cultivation techniques, these systems mean les soil and chemicals are carried into ditches and streams.”

Like many farmers, Craigmile has been putting time and energy into his conservation ethic—going beyond implementing practices on his own farm, and going the next steps of serving on advisory committees and boards. He has served on TMDL (total maximum daily load) advisory committees for both the Pollution Control Agency’s work on the Minnesota River, and his local watershed district, the Lac qui Parle Yellow Bank Watershed District. He has also served on water quality issue committees for Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center. He has also put more than a decade of service into the Lac qui Parle County Planning and Zoning Commission.

“I have a deep respect for water,” said Craigmile. “We live and farm in area where the water resources are challenged. There’s no beneficial interest to the farmer for screwing up our groundwater or our lakes and streams. Lots of farmers have lake property. We are all part of it.  We’re all in it together. We are going to do our part. I would never say agriculture doesn’t have an impact on water but I would say that farming’s impact is, for the most part, unintentional. We are all involved. I like to tell people that none of us can drink a glass of water without impacting water quality. The minute we begin planning and using this resource we change it. Our medications are ending up in the water courses and may end up being a far more negative stressor than nitrogen. Humans have modified the landscape. We need to respect each other and work together and see what can be done.”

See Craigmile’s article in full at http://mankatofreepress.com/letters/x2145130755/My-View-For-farmers-conservation-is-key

Sediment forum draws 250 to learn about improving water quality

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Near-Channel Sediment Source Management Forum on January 4 in North Mankato brought together about 250 people who share a common concern for the future of the Minnesota River and water quality across the state.

About forty of those in attendance were farmers. Farmer-supported research shows that stream-bank erosion, or “near-channel” sources produce the majority of sediment that clouds Minnesota’s rivers.

“People used to think that 70 to 80 percent of sediment came off crop land—but Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council research on stream banks shows the farm land number is closer to 25 percent, and most of the rest comes from stream banks,” said Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield who attended the forum. Peterson serves as secretary for Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Peterson said, “As farmers, we know it’s still important to learn how to reduce that 25 percent. The critical question becomes how can we reduce the amount water that leaves the farm. By the time it makes it to the river, we found out how that can have an impact—gully formation and so forth.

Farmers and landowners of every sort have developed ways to send excess water away from their land—whether it is tile drainage on farms or sump systems for basements of homes and commercial properties. Developing means of increasing water storage on the land, before the water enters streams and rivers, may be a method to reduce stream bank erosion, several of the day’s presenters said.

“Farmers tend to get a bad rap for tile drainage, but the reason farmers do it is that they know well-drained soils produce healthier crops,” Peterson observed. “This in turn produces more crop residue, which counters the impact, somewhat, of water leaving ag land—the residue slows the water down and allows sediment to drop out.”

Research on water storage and engineered treatments for banks show promise for reducing loss of soil into watercourses. Rain gardens, holding ponds and other methods of water retention are gaining wider spread use.

“Developers in the urban and suburban areas, farmers, non-farmers in rural areas—we all need to work together to reduce the impacts on the land,” said Peterson. “One single corrective action won’t change our sediment problems overnight, but lots of us making small changes could have an impact.”

Riley Maanum, Research & Project Manager at MCGA, said one important outcome of a meeting like this was how it brings together farmers with the government officials who can work most closely with them on solutions.

“The fixes that can go on at the farm are going to happen through the local Soil and Water Conservation district offices and the Natural Resource Conservation Service,” said Maanum. A lot of folks from these agencies were at the forum—we want to communicate to them that farmers are willing to work with them. Farmers want to do the right thing. We are moving forward and we have been moving forward since agriculture started. We don’t farm the same as we did last year, because we are always learning new things.”

The series of speakers represented divergent viewpoints, and was important for these scientists and researchers to interact, Peterson felt. Sorting out the options may still point to tough choices, but ones that could be made with full, scientific research to back them up. One of the speakers talked about different management options for some of the steep ravines and banks along the river. One of his conclusions, Peterson noted, was that, instead of trying to stabilize banks, it would be cheaper to move the channel of the river. This though, could involve loss of valuable land to individual property owners, or the need to move homes or buildings to make way for a better water channel placement.

“Our voice was heard loud and clear at the forum,” Maanum said. “It’s not that we wanted to argue about anything. We want to be at the table.”