This time of transition between winter and spring can be a wishy-washy, ambivalent affair. It’s sunny and 50 degrees, then 20 and snowing. Likewise, some bald eagles are still hanging out in their winter homes or migrating along the Mississippi River, while others are nest-bound, feeding fuzzy eaglets. Another impressive hunter, the great horned owl, is also nesting these days. Luckily, there's great local spots to see all of this avian action, both outside along the Mississippi River and online.
Gov. Mark Dayton delivers the opening remarks of Minnesota's first-ever Governor's Water Summit.
When over 800 Minnesotans gather in a windowless basement on the first beautiful spring-like day, there must be a compelling reason. In this case the reason was water. Residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes showed up in droves to show their care and concern at the Governor's Water Summit. Among them, of course, were staff from FMR and our fellow water protection colleagues, plus 30 volunteer FMR River Protectors. Together, we made sure our top priorities for clean waters were heard loud and clear. Next up: Turning these basement conversations into noticeable improvements for Minnesotans' waters, communities and wildlife.
The Minneapolis park board recently signed a purchase agreement for the riverfront parcel at 4022 1/2 Washington Avenue North. Located between North Mississippi Regional Park and the Upper Harbor Terminal, the site will someday be a critical link and addition to the Above the Falls Regional Park along the north and northeast Minneapolis stretch of the Mississippi River.
News of another riverfront property acquisition in the works. $1 million from General Mills for new park development. And an excellent U of M researcher and Northside resident joins FMR to look into improved community connections. This is one great month for increasing public access to the Mississippi River in the Above the Falls area!
Without a buffer strip of grass or other perennial vegetation, water runs straight off a farm field, carrying phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment into nearby streams, lakes and rivers.
Bowing to pressure from agribusiness groups and select lawmakers, Gov. Mark Dayton made statewide news with a surprise announcement in late-January: a major portion of the 2015 buffer bill is being rolled back. As a result, hundreds of miles of private ditches will be exempt from buffer requirements and will continue to carry polluted farm runoff into Minnesota's waters.
Last month's view was from West Island Avenue on Nicollet Island looking west towards the North Loop neighborhood. The three round iron structures in the water are "mooring cells" which provided a parking spot for barges when the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock was in operation. Now that the lock is closed, these structures could have an alternative use or be removed in the future. Also visible in the photo is the mouth of Basset Creek, which enters the river at approximately 5th Ave N, and the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.
Territorial drumming of this common Minnesota species echoes throughout our late-winter woods.
Declining water levels in White Bear Lake have been big news for the northeast metro area for some time. (Photo Freshwater Society)
Recently the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released a much-anticipated report detailing cost estimates for pumping water from the Mississippi River to refill or "augment" shrinking White Bear Lake. The potential price tag?: $107 million, plus up to $4.1 million in annual operating costs. Given this, along with previous analyses casting doubt on such a system's potential effectiveness, FMR opposes any further state investment in such direct augmentation efforts.
Mid-January, Governor Dayton announced that his administration will host the Governor's Water Summit in St. Paul on Saturday, Feb. 27th. FMR and our conservation partners are working with the administration to help shape the summit and provide a much-needed focus on ideas that can help address agricultural water pollution, the largest source of pollution to the Mississippi River. Summit registration has closed, but you can still play a role and help set its agenda by taking the Governor's Clean Water Summit Survey.
Long-eared owls (yes, there's more than one) in a red cedar as seen through a spotting scope roughly 60 feet from the tree so as not to disturb their roost. Photo by Alexander Leo Lewanski.
Most owls are solitary creatures, however some Midwestern species do in fact roost communally, such as the closely related long-eared (Asio otis) and short-eared (Asio flammeus) owls.
FMR Communications Manager sue rich (left) and Volunteer Coordinator Amy Kilgore (right)
Friends of the Mississippi River is excited to announce key staff changes in the new year. As we grow and take on new work, we're adapting our staffing to better address the huge range of activities in the works for 2016.