At the LWV US National Convention, LWV Jo Daviess County was nominated for the Storytelling Award. This category showcases how Leagues have harnessed the power of storytelling to promote League priorities and recruit members and engagers through projects focused on our history, fundraising, DEI, or the Campaign for Making Democracy Work®. This could include videos, social media campaigns, presentations, email campaigns, webpages, or other activities that were presented to members of their community.
LWV Jo Daviess County was nominated for a series of columns in their local paper on water issues. The columns provided a way to express the League's gratitude to the many citizens who collaborated with us during the years of our work, as well as present continuing opportunities for others in the community to engage in the ongoing work. The columns also functioned as a tribute to the legacy of our LWV founders during this year of our 100th Anniversary.
Given this example, Lonni McCauley, LWV ABC (Minnesota) member and LWV UMRR Action Chair, has worked with the local newspaper in Anoka, Minnesota, to publish monthly columns by local water experts. The Anoka County Union Herald has now published two articles, with more to come. The first was by Chris Lord, Manager of the Anoka Conservation District, and focused on how the Mississippi shaped his environmental consciousness as a child and eventually his career. In the second column, published last week, was by Gretchen Sabel, Chair of the Anoka County Water Resources Task Force. It covered an upcoming report on water resources in Anoka County and what work is being done to protect and restore them.
Each article includes a lead-in from the LWV UMRR: "This is part of a series of monthly columns by local water experts. These columns on local rivers and land use are a collaboration between the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region and other environmental groups in Anoka County. Learn more about the League of Women Voters at lwvumrr.org." Through these articles, LWV UMRR is working to build understanding and appreciation for water.
“As members of the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region Interleague Organization, we are appalled at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless other black citizens. We will not remain silent while they suffer from racist crimes of the past four centuries.
As we speak out for the environmental needs in our 4 states, we must also stand for all black communities and ensure that their needs and fair share of our resources are protected. Our League recognizes that our work includes providing for the equal rights of all voters and we wish to encourage everyone to vote so that our dream of a strong country equally includes all of our diverse people and their dreams.“
- Mary Ploesser, LWV UMRR Co-President
At the May 30, 2020, Annual Meeting, Action Chair Lonni McCauley lead a lively discussion on proposed updates to the LWV UMRR plan of action. LWV UMRR's mission was laid out in our bylaws when we were formed, and follows. We continue to follow this mission, working through LWV US and the State Leagues of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois on state and federal legislation to support our mission.
Section 1: Purposes. The purposes of the LWV-UMRR ILO are to:
(a) educate the public concerning the necessity of preserving our Region’s water resources
(b) improve public understanding and active, informed citizen participation in evidence-based decision-making as essential elements of responsible and responsive management of the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River Region;
(c) promote resource conservation, science-based stewardship, and long-range planning for managing the region’s natural resources, efficient and economical government requiring competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibilities, adequate financing, effective enforcement, coordination among the different agencies and levels of government and well defined channels for citizen input and review;
(d) publish on our website, Face Book page, and other media outlets information related to resource preservation efforts and developments;
(e) meet with governmental representatives to report to governmental committees, agencies, and boards; and generally to attempt to help local, state and federal lawmakers establish enforceable legislation to help protect the region’s natural resources; and
(f) expand and redefine our educational and environmental program from time to time as necessary to meet the continuing challenge of protecting our region’s natural resources.
Saturday, May 30, LWV UMRR held our fifth Annual Meeting and our first virtual Annual Meeting. Co-Chairs Mary and Steve Ploesser did a great job of running the meeting on Zoom, proving that this technology can be effective for both a business meeting and the educational sessions following. (We had originally planned to hold the meeting in Glenview, Illinois, and include the Chicago Botanic Garden as an activity. We'll have to wait for another opportunity to try the onion rings at Hackney's!)
Delegates and Board members were on hand from 24 of our 52 member Leagues representing all four states in the Upper Mississippi river basin. We approved an ongoing plan of action (see related blog post), a budget and bylaw changes to address questions relating to determining who is a voting member of the Board. If you have any questions about this, email us at email@example.com.
The May 30 UMRR Annual Meeting focused on Chicago's Impacts on the Mississippi. Our speakers were Debra Shore and Kelly McGinnis - their talks were illuminating, insightful and inspiring.
In the Mississippi Basin, Chicago is the big dog – the largest population center in the basin. The more than nine million people of the Chicago area get drinking water from Lake Michigan but discharge wastewater into the Illinois River.
The map below shows the Illinois River and its footprint across the Chicago metropolitan area. Compare this to the population density map from the Census Bureau, showing 2011 population density. The Minneapolis area is the next largest metro area in the Mississippi Basin with about three million people, a third of the population of the Chicago area.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago is responsible for treating wastewater, you can read more about this organization on their website here: https://mwrd.org/about . Our first speaker, Debra Shore, talked about how Chicago strives to reduce pollution that flows into the Mississippi River, as well as, speaking to her role as Commissioner and the role of the MWRD. Debra even explained the complicated hydrology of the Chicago area and how the Chicago River's flow was reversed to send wastes west to the Mississippi while protecting the city's water supply in Lake Michigan.
Our second speaker was also Chicago-based. Kelly McGinnis discussed how we can support and lead advocacy in efforts to decrease pollution in the Mississippi River. Kelly is the Executive Director of the Mississippi River Network. The Mississippi River Network is a network of 57 organizations in the Mississippi Basin, working together to protect the land, water, wildlife, and people of the United States’ greatest River. The three areas where the MRN is providing education is on reducing nutrient pollution, protecting floodplains and wetlands, and promoting farm bill conservation programs. Read more about the MRN at on their website at http://1mississippi.org/aboutus/#network. LWV UMRR is a proud member of the MRN.
The videos of the talks follow - click "Read More" following the videos for speaker bios.
Like LWV UMRR, American Rivers is a Mississippi River Network member. American Rivers is a national river advocacy organization that releases an annual report of America's 'Most Endangered Rivers'. Number one on the list for Most Endangered Rivers of 2020 is our beloved Upper Mississippi River. In her latest blog, Kristen Mertz, recaps the Most Endangered River listing, highlighting issues and opportunities, while also sharing about the criteria used to generate the report.
From a post on the Mississippi River Netowrks blog, "American Rivers has defined the greatest threats to the Upper Mississippi River as climate change and poor floodplain and watershed management. Climate change is closely linked to flooding, due to heavier, and more frequent precipitation along the Mississippi River. Not only are we accumulating greater rainfall, but we are also increasing our runoff as well. Olivia Dorothy, Director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin at American Rivers, notes that sediment runoff also raises the riverbed and exacerbates flooding.
Additionally, in urban settings, the banks of the Upper Mississippi River have been overdeveloped with impervious pavements that do not assist in filtering the pollution before it enters our waterway.
What can you do? Contact your local politicians and tell them that you want them to address Mississippi River flooding through use of restored wetlands and other natural upland water storage tools. We can make the Mississippi better!
This is not an Action Alert from Leauge of Women Voters, rather we are providing information on a pending goverment action that our readers may decide to comment on, with information from other organizations. Note that the comment deadline is May 18.
A recent email from the Water Protection Network urges readers to comment on a rule being proposed by EPA. (MRN's appeal follows this paragraph, verbatim.) This rule would set standards for the types of scientific research that can be used in environmental decision making. On its face, it would make sense for EPA to define the level of research that will be used - as we are seeing now with covid research it seems that there is often incomplete, inconclusive or even conflicting conclusions that come out regularly. It's important that the research that is used in decision-making reflects the current scientific understanding on a particular topic. But if the constraints work to systematically exclude certain types of research, the quality of decision making is diminished. So, here's the call-to-action paragraph from the Mississippi River Network
"Take Action Against EPA's Secret Science Rule
At a time when the importance of sound science-based decision-making is painfully clear, the Trump administration has proposed a rule that would impose sweeping restrictions on the types of scientific studies that can inform the regulatory decision-making process. Instead of "strengthening transparency" as the proposal claims to do, it is instead designed to "keep highly respected and peer-reviewed scientific studies from informing government decisions on public health and environmental protection" (Bruce Stein, NWF).
Following the links in this paragraph leads the reader to EPA's proposal in the Federal Register and a March 23, 2020, blog post by Ann Mesnikoff of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Reading the EPA proposal it is hard to sort out what there is to be concerned about. There is a link in Ann's blog post taking the reader to Ann's December 4, 2019 post, where she provides more background on the rule. She says, "The rule requires all of the data underpinning EPA legislation to be publicly available or otherwise replicable. However, there are multiple reasons why some studies can’t be replicated or made fully available. Privacy rules and patient protections prevent individual health data from being released. Raw data or original conditions may no longer exist, such as lead exposure from leaded gasoline, which has been banned now for decades. Scientific research is built around long-term and health-based research, so there are long-established methods for evaluating in these situations. The new “transparency” rule would not lead to more transparent research; it would only bar EPA from using critical scientific information."
This action is just one of a myriad of ways that the rules protecting our air, land and water are being weakened. Sigh. Push back will be timely,.
Picture below - How institutions are approaching scientific research during Covid-19
On November 4, 2008, Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the constitution to protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.
The amendment increased the sales and use tax rate by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales (0.00375), starting July 1, 2009, continuing through 2034. Approximately 33% of those funds are dedicated to the Clean Water Fund to protect, enhance, and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater, with at least 5% of the fund targeted to protect drinking water sources.
These funds have enabled many projects across Minnesota. This report evaluates 63 stream restoration projects, identifying what works and doesn't in these projects. These projects are of particular interest because of the evolving nature of stream restoration science, the range of goals addressed in the work, and the high stakes surrounding problems with implementation. The key elements of successful projects were identified, and problems were also identifed that posed obstacles to success.
Click here to read a copy of this report.
“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” - Elizabeth Edwards
We talk a lot about watersheds on this website, but now we are at a different type of a watershed - a watershed point in time. As Covid-19 burns through our communities, we will come out different; stronger, more experienced, and hopefully wiser. How will we take what we learn here and turn it to making our world better, safer and cleaner?
Isn’t it ironic that we are greeting the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a global pandemic? Fifty years ago there were dire predictions years of impending global collapse but when we get out to today it’s a virus that’s actually changing the world and how we live.
So much has been done in the 50 years since the first Earth Day, and we’ve made progress in many areas of environmental protection. The Smithsonian’s April issue “trumpets new reasons to be positive” about the environment, citing the comeback of mountain gorilla populations, the increasing use of renewable energy and ongoing science that looks to make human’s impacts on the earth more sustainable. National Geographic magazine’s April Edition offers two views – turn the magazine one way and you get “fifty years of progress” but when you flip it over you get “fifty years of damage”. Two sides of one coin, is the implication; a matter of perspective. But it’s not that simple. Changes to the earth alter our daily lives. Our ever-growing human population density drives damage to the Earth, and makes us vulnerable to disease transmission with tragic results.
We can agree that progress in environmental protection has been made in many areas. But the fact remains that there’s still a long way to go. As human populations increase, as people move into wilderness areas and extractive industries continue to alter the earth to meet the increasing needs of people, our impacts increase and are felt even more strongly. As we recover from this pandemic, we will face a changed world. The direction we take in the future will determine the fate of our planet like at no other time. How can we work to ensure that the future is sustainable?
LWV UMRR Co_President Steve Ploesser sees hope in today's tribulations. Not only are we developing a deeper understanding of the value of being with family, friends, co workers and strangers, but we are learning new ways to connect that may make us 'greener' with greater acceptance of remote working and an understanding of what we give up by spending hours in our cars. And the shut downs have graphically shown what the impact of reducing driving can do to improve air quality. Let us hope that we will have learned these lessons and will work together to make the world cleaner and safer for everyone.
Reductions in air pollution in two major cities - San Fransciso and Beijing, due to stay-at-home orders.
In Minnesota, more than 75 environmental and public interest non-profits have banded together to form the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. This organization strengthens member effectiveness and builds collective power to secure a healthy environment for all Minnesotans. MEP achieves this mission by providing forums for collaboration and offering capacity building services that make our member groups, and our coalition, stronger. They create and organize various services, including communications and capacity building trainings, meetings for our members with policy makers, news and information gathering, networking opportunities, and more. League of Women Voters Minnesota is a member of MEP; LWV UMRR participates in MEP activities through this link.
This blog post and the post "Line 3 Comment Period Extended" are from a March 28 MEP "Environmental Insider" email by Matt Doll, and are reproduced here with his permission. Line 3, an Enbridge pipeline that runs through northern Minnesota is in need of upgrade and repair. This post focuses on the permitting of of a proposed copper-nickel mine adjoining the Boundary Waters Canoe Area along the Canadian border.
PolyMet appeal headed to Supreme Court, company on the defensive on permits
By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Two major developments on PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine in northern Minnesota were announced this week.
On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) air permits for the PolyMet mine. The Court found that in its permit, the MPCA hadn’t adequately considered the increase in air pollution that would ensue from PolyMet dramatically scaling up its mining operation. PolyMet’s recent lans anticipate increasing its mining operation beyond what it stated when it applied for permits. It appears to be a case of PolyMet attempting to use the “foot-in-the-door” trick by securing a permit for a smaller scale of mining before asking for an increase, to which state agencies would be presumably more agreeable. The Court of Appeals decision requires the MPCA to revisit the initial air permits on these grounds.
Then, on Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear PolyMet’s appeal of a January Court of Appeals decision that overturned its permit to mine and its dam safety permits. That decision requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a public contested-case hearing on the mine’s environmental impacts before permitting for the mine can proceed. (CLICK READ MORE TO PROCEED)
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