Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area

State of the River – one year later

On Sept. 27, 2012, FMR and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area partnered to release The State of the River Report. The report highlighted the status and trends of 13 key water quality and river health indicators for the metro Mississippi River. One year later, we have a lot more to report.

Upon its release at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the report received statewide and national attention, and brought the complex world of water resource sciences into a form that connects with citizens across the state. The report has generated local and national media coverage – including major coverage in the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, local papers across the state, and even community papers as far away as Arizona, California, and Texas.

Since the release, FMR and MNRRA have hosted more than 50 public events across the state to share the report with more than 2,300 local residents. We’ve distributed close to 2,000 copies of the report and its companions guides, and had nearly 40,000 visits to StateoftheRiver.com.

Policy Progress

The report wasn’t just about sharing information in a way that people can understand. It was about invigorating the public discourse about what must be done to protect and restore our most precious natural resource: water.

One year later, we are happy to report that policy makers have responded. Following the release of the report, we’ve seen steady progress in a number of the key goals of the Policy Guide.

A few of these highlights include:

Stopping Asian Carp:

  • U.S. House and Senate legislation that includes language that will direct the Army Corps of Engineers to close the upper St. Anthony Lock, preventing further upstream infestation of Asian carp.
  • The state allocated $8.6 million over six years for aquatic invasive species research.

Monitoring for fish and aquatic life:

  • The MPCA has begun, for the first time, intensive large river monitoring for fish and aquatic life, as recommended in our Policy Guide. This includes monitoring in the metro Mississippi River.

Triclosan Executive Order:

  • A March 4, 2013, executive order phased out the purchase of triclosan by all state agencies – the first state in the nation to do so.
  • Triclosan phase-out legislation passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee.

Coal tar sealants:

Coal tar is a known carcinogen that is applied to driveways and parking lots as a sealant with massive long-term clean-up costs to communities.

  • 2013 legislation included a statewide ban of sale and application of coal tar sealants that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Minnesota is just the second state to do so.
  • MPCA has requested and received resources to help cities excavate contaminated sediments from ponds.

Agricultural pollution control:

  • The Clean Water Accountability Act, championed by FMR and its partners, passed at the end of the 2013 session. This bill requires watershed clean up plans to identity pollution sources and prioritize restoration and clean-up dollars for the most effective projects first.

Stormwater runoff standard:

  • The state’s new municipal runoff permit, for the first time, includes strong stormwater volume control requirements.
  • The state’s new “Minimum Impact Design Standards” (MIDS) were finalized this spring and will help designers build new developments and redevelopments that greatly reduce stormwater pollution to our state’s waters.

Next Steps

It’s been a terrific year at FMR. These water quality policy outcomes have secured long-term policy reforms that will greatly improve water quality in the years to come. But while these outcomes are vital to the health of the Mississippi River and its watershed, there is still much more to do.

Over the next two years, FMR will work to check off the remaining goals laid out in the Policy Guide. By completing these goals, FMR will:

  • End the unnecessary use of triclosan in hand soaps and other products, and help remove 30% of the dioxins currently flushing into our surface waters;
  • Push the state to complete rules that will allow pharmaceuticals to collect unused prescriptions so people don’t’ flush them down the toilet – and eventually back into the river;
  • Pass legislation to control unregulated agricultural drainage and runoff policies that are responsible for 78% of nitrate pollution to the Mississippi River;
  • Coordinate a coalition of clean water and recreation groups to ensure that the MPCA completes first-in-the-nation river phosphorus and nitrogen standards by 2015;
  • Expand and grow the innovative Blue Star Award Program, a positive public recognition program that awards cities that excel at reducing stormwater runoff; and
  • Continue to be a leading voice for clean, safe, healthy surface waters across the metro area, and beyond.

We know Minnesotans value clean water. We know the nation looks to us for leadership. It’s been a terrific year for The State of the River Report – and we look forward to doing even more to advance clean water goals in the Mississippi River.