LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, or UMRR (pronounced “Ummer”), is an interleague organization focused on water quality. UMRR is made up of 60 local Leagues in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Our geographic area is the Upper Mississippi River basin – that part of the Upper Mississippi basin upstream of the river’s confluence with the Ohio at the south edge of Illinois. Here’s a link to an UMRR blog post to learn more about what an ILO is and how it fits into the LWV national structure, and to learn more about how our structure strengthens our work, allowing the amplification of the voice of League throughout the watershed.
Established in 2015, UMRR’s Board has strong representation from each of our four member states. Our Board members are listed on our Contact Us page– you may know some of us! The Board meets six times a year on the first Monday of even numbered months. In the pre-Covid days, we traveled around the basin for these meetings, which was a great way to get to know our members and the water issues in their communities. Now, everything is on the same schedule, but virtual. For each Board meeting, we also hold an educational session that focuses on a specific topic of concern. These educational sessions are open to the public and recorded videos are shared and posted.
Upcoming educational sessions are planned on
How to connect with LWV UMRR:
LWV UMRR’s website has lots of information. Our Blog features 2-3 posts per month on topics that UMRR is working on. One recent post includes a link to video from our Feb 1 meeting, where we learned about watershed-scale work to reach people and promote soil health and water quality. Our “Upcoming Events” page includes posts for our upcoming meetings and maintains Board meeting information from past events. Here, those who are interested can see our Board agendas, meeting minutes, Treasurer reports, and Action Committee reports as well as see the topics that were included in the educational sessions.
Almost every month, LWV UMRR puts out a newsletter that includes links to our Blog posts and other items of interest. You can sign up to receive the newsletter by submitting the info through our Contact Us page, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leagues that are not already members can join UMRR through our Membership page, and anyone interested in making a donation can do so on our Donate page.
Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything…
Well, we now know that we have to do something about the climate, and that we can start by talking about climate change and what it means to our lives, our environment and our children’s future. (Did you notice that we said “climate change”? Yes, climate is different from weather, and we need to both talk about it and do something!)
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region (LWV UMRR) has added a focus on climate change to our action portfolio. We are urging our member Leagues to plan programs on the topic – and have an option to offer with prepared material to do it!
LWV Dane County (Madison, WI) has made climate change their topic for action this year. They are sponsoring four forums (link) that will be available for local Leagues to stream. Materials packets are prepared for each forum so viewers will be able to learn about the topic in advance and have good discussion after the program. These packets are rich with information and geared to help build understanding, not detailed scientific tomes. LWV DC does an excellent job with both the packets and with finding a good range of speakers who bring broad expertise to the subject; this would be a great way for a local League to begin the conversation on climate change. As a bonus, their website features a weekly column titled “Climate Corner”, featuring a medley of resources and information that highlight personal actions, diversity and equity perspectives, and additional learning opportunities, all related to climate change.
The first of the four forums took place on September 4 - you can watch the video here. Titled “Why Climate Change is a Public Health Emergency”, the featured speakers were Ralph Petersen , Ph.D. (UW–Madison Space, Science and Engineering Center), Andrea Kaminski (Board Director and former Executive Director of LWVWI) and Dr. Claire Gervais , M.D., (UW Health Clinics). Looking ahead, LWV DC is planning these additional forums:
• November 6, 2019, focusing on government's role in combatting climate change,
• February 5, 2020, focusing on agriculture as a solution and
• April 1, 2020 focusing on water impacts.
LWV UMRR’s Co-Presidents, Mary and Steve Ploeser, are members of the LWV Dane County committee working on the forum. We are proud to share their work with our member Leagues, and thank them for the commitment to LWV and the environment. – Gretchen Sabel, Communications Director, LWV UMRR
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region owes a lot to LWV Jo Daviees County – it was this League in Galena, Illinois, that had the idea to start an Inter League Organization* focused on protecting and improving water quality in the Upper Mississippi. It was from that idea that LWV UMRR was born in 2015, and we thank them for it.
LWV JDC has moved the ball along considerably in their local water quality work now. You can read about how they got started in this blog post from August of 2017. In this post from December of 2017, we shared the good news that LWV Jo Daviess County received a $10,000 prize for their proposal in the US EPA's Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge.
They implemented the proposal, and this month learned that they won big - they were one of three projects across the US receiving a $50,000 prize for their work!
Following is the press release from US EPA. Congratulations to LWV Jo Daviess County!
CHICAGO (Aug. 21, 2019) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and four federal partners announced the winners of its technology-accelerating water quality challenge. The League of Women Voters of Illinois in Jo Daviess County is one of three national teams selected for the Challenge’s prize of $50,000 each. The winning teams demonstrated how data from low-cost water quality monitoring sensors can be used to inform local decision-making on nutrient management.
LWV Action on Climate Change: A Call to Arms, with lots of guidance, from Caryl Terrell (LWV Dane Co, WI) at the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting on June 1
The LWV US Tool Kit for Climate Action is an excellent resource for getting started. Take some time to explore this website - the menu on the right has links to a wide array of information, advice and examples.
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region ... in these blog posts we talk about what we do, where we go, our events, our beliefs. But what is the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, anyhow?
Comprised of about 50 local Leagues across the Upper Mississippi watershed, we have a broad network and many interrelated issues to address. Our program of action - the things we work on - is set every year at our Annual Meeting with approval from our membership. Since our incorporation on October 25, 2015, we have been focused on working to reduce the amount of nutrients - fertilizers and wastes - that are discharged to the Mississippi.
In our four states, this work takes different forms. In Minnesota, our members advocate for stronger groundwater protections, help plan a major water-related lobbying day at the Capitol, and are working with other organizations to hold workshops for absentee owners of farmland. We learn about and take positions on water issues, such as when we joined with LWV Wisconsin to speak out against the diversion of water from Lake Michigan. And we work to shine a light on issues of groundwater depletion and pollution in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
In Illinois, LWV Jo Daviess County (Galena) has been leading efforts to develop local water plans and protections, and organize monitoring efforts to document water quality in the Galena River as well as local groundwater. They have worked with the Rotary Clubs in the Midwest to educate and activate people on issues of nutrient pollution, and have received awards for their work.
Our Board meets on the first Monday of even-numbered months. We travel around the watershed, putting on events with local Leagues as part of our Board meetings. Here are some examples from December and October of 2018. When possible, we video our educational events and share the videos on our blog. Our Annual Meetings are big events, with speakers and more. In 2018, we were in Chicago for a joint meeting on LWV water work nationwide with LWV Lake Michigan; our 2017 Annual Meeting was in La Crosse and focused on water issues in Wisconsin.
Who we are, what we do, is built upon our strong foundation from LWV at all levels. The following statement was written by one of the founders of LWV UMRR, Bonnie Cox of LWV Jo Daviess County (Illinois). Bonnie's statement is inspirational, and provides a guiding light as we work our issues. We thank Bonnie for her work with UMRR!
Our blog posts document our work - here's a list of the posts as of December, 2018.
Monday, December 3
Coralville Public Library - Room A
1401 5th St, Coralville, IA 52241
Mike Delaney, Izaak Walton League Upper Mississippi River Initiative Field Organizer
Lonni McCauley, League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region Action Chair
1:00 - Gather at the Library for light refreshments
1:25 – Introductions
1:30 – Speakers
2:15 – Audience questions and discussion
2:30 – Adjourn
Throughout the Midwest, absentee landownership of farm land is common. In some places, more than half the farmland is rented. The management of this land is critical - land owners must work with their renters to develop contracts that reward good stewardship and build soil health. How should these discussions be framed? How can the renter protect both the rented land and his bottom line? What will be the farming legacy of these rented lands?
The Izaak Walton League (aka "the Ikes") received a grant from the McKnight Foundation and is developing workshops to provide landowners with this information. The LWV UMRR is working with the Ikes in our four-state area, with a goal of finding member Leagues to work with local Ike chapters put on these workshops throughout the watershed. Both organizations extend the invitation to this meeting in Coralville so we can meet each other and set up the groundwork for local workshop planning.
The Coralville Public Library is close to I-80 just northeast of Iowa City. It offers free parking and a large, comfortable room for our use. Click Upcoming Events for a printable flyer you can use to share the information with others. We also have made this an event on Facebook - like us and help spread the word! Here's a map - see you in Coralville!
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region is working with LWV Wisconsin and LWV Lake Michigan to question the proposed use of Lake Michigan water for an industrial development outside the Lake Michigan watershed. A recent post on this blog provides more background - click here.
Here is the most recent update on that project, from LWV Wisconsin:
Racine Diversion Challenge AdvancesLast week, the legal challenge to the City of Racine’s plan to divert Great Lakes water to the Foxconn industrial complex advanced. A pre-hearing conference is set for September 12 before an Administrative Law Judge.
The petitioners contend that the Wisconsin DNR’s approval of Racine’s request for a Great Lakes water diversion for the Foxconn development violates the Great Lakes Compact, an interstate agreement enacted to protect this economic and cultural resource. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is one of six organizations appealing the diversion permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Compact strictly requires diversions of Great Lakes water be limited to public, largely residential, uses. Racine’s attempt to divert 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water west of the Great Lakes Basin divide to serve the solely private industrial uses of Foxconn violates this rule.
The League believes that the Great Lakes Compact, signed into law in by President G.W. Bush on October 3, 2008, significantly supports the long standing League positions of an "environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest," and that policies must consider the "environmental, ... and economic impacts of proposed plans and actions." Read more at the LWVWI website.
In Minnesota, LWV UMRR Action Chair Lonni McCauley has reached out to the Governor's office and the Minnesota DNR to urge Minnesota to engage on this issue through the Great Lakes Compact. We will provide updates here as things progress.
Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese manufacturer of LED-screens, is coming to Wisconsin, with jobs, economic development and lots of questions.
Foxconn is building its major manufacturing facility near Racine, in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. The company’s North American headquarters will be in Milwaukee and a research facility will be built in Eau Claire. The state of Wisconsin, under the leadership of Governor Scott Walker, has given significant incentives to land this development. Unfortunately, many of these incentives have been reduction of environmental permitting requirements, which is another story; click here for an interview with Dr. Peter Adriaens from the University of Michigan.
The facility in Mount Pleasant will need lots of water. For this, the City of Racine has requested permission from Wisconsin DNR to take 7 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan. Since Mount Pleasant is a ‘straddling community’ – part in the Lake Michigan watershed and part in the Upper Mississippi watershed – their request must conform to the standards set out in the Great Lakes Compact – see more information here. WI DNR decided that the standards were met and granted the withdrawal. An appeal to this permit was filed and an additional process of public comment and review gone through. On April 25, 2018, the WI DNR again approved the withdrawal.
Is this a bad thing? Inter-basin transfer of water (taking water from one major water basin, in this case the Lake Michigan basin, and sending it to another, in this case the Upper Mississippi) is troubling. Water shortages abound across the world, and many look longingly at the vast freshwater resources of the Great Lakes. The purpose of the Compact is to ensure that the water in the Great Lakes is not mined and that Great Lakes ecosystems are protected. Learn more about the Great Lakes Compact here.
WI DNR’s approval of the City of Racine’s application violates the Compact requirement that any water diverted out of the Basin must be used solely for “Public Water Supply Purposes.” The purpose of the City of Racine’s diversion, as identified in the City’s application, is exclusively to supply water to industrial and commercial customers in a newly-designated “electronics and information technology manufacturing zone” in the Village of Mt. Pleasant. The in the out-of-basin portion of Mt. Pleasant subject to the diversion request.
LWV has a position (here) that inter-basin transfer should not be allowed unless:
LWV Wisconsin has lead efforts to oppose the withdrawal. LWV Lake Michigan is party to the Petition seeking reconsideration by WI DNR. LWV Upper Mississippi has made a resolution in opposition, and will continue to find ways to work against this transfer. You can read the resolution here.
According to the Great Lakes Compact, the 8 states and 2 provinces that border the Great Lakes have a right to question decisions. LWV UMRR so far has undertaken these actions:
Addition: Minnesota Public Radio looked at who comes out ahead in the Foxconn deal on July 31 - you can read more about it and listen to the conversation here. - LWV UMRR Blogger, Gretchen Sabel
The League of Women Voters has worked on water issues for nearly as long as there has been a League of Women Voters. In “Impact on Issues 2016-2018 - Natural Resources”, this rich history is documented in detail. The role of League leaders in supporting thoughtful approaches to protecting water resources across the country is balanced by the role that water issues have played in building League membership and influence. As stated in “Impact”, “Water issues, from groundwater protection to agricultural runoff to the Safe Drinking Water Act, have energized League leaders, especially at the local level, for decades.”
How many Leagues are involved in work on water issues? Which water resources are the target of these efforts? What has been learned, and what can be shared to help others succeed? To learn the answers to these questions, LWV Upper Mississippi River Region sought information through a survey, sent to all Leagues in the United States. A detailed summary of the survey results is in this .pdf .
Based on the survey, Leagues in 26 states are active in water issues. The water resources that are being addressed include oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. Ocean pollution is a concern in Oregon and Washington, and California Leagues work to prevent degradation of estuaries where freshwater streams meet the saltwater. LWV Benecia, near San Francisco, is very active in working on water use and conservation - click here for more detail. Sea level rise is a concern in Florida, where Leagues across the state work to support efforts to prepare for the impacts of rising coastal water levels.
The Great Lakes were mentioned by six Leagues. Key issues here are nutrient pollution, and cleanup of toxic contamination. Funding for the Great Lakes Initiative, a US EPA program, is seen as critical for ensuring that clean ups continue. For example, LWV Glen Ellyn (IL) reported that in March 2017 they joined with other organizations at U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam's office to protest major cuts in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In April 2017, three LWV Glen Ellyn members met with Rep. Roskam's staffer. Among items discussed were proposed cuts to environmental protections; asked that Rep. Roskam to protect our water in the Great Lakes Basin by keeping full funding for the GLRI. This advocacy lead to full funding for the GLI in 2018. One League, LWV of Steuben County (New York) sits in both the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds, and reports working on water issues on both sides of the continental divide.
Focusing specifically on Lake Michigan, the LWV Lake Michigan Region ILO brings together 45 Leagues from the four states that border the Lake. This ILO has taken on a major project of stormwater education in their watershed, and is now working on developing watershed factsheets for the rivers and streams that discharge to Lake Michigan. Ohio Leagues are working to reduce nutrients, and the algae that results, in Lake Erie and the public water sources that flow into it.
Seven Leagues reported that they focus their efforts on the Upper Mississippi. All of these Leagues are members of the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region ILO. In this ILO, individual Leagues work on local water issues and the ILO brings additional emphasis to issues like the impacts of the US Farm Bill. LWV Galena (Illinois) has been leading local efforts in northwestern Illinois to monitor water resources and educate decision makers on the need for protection. Leaders in this League were instrumental in the formation of the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region in 2015, building this tool as way that Leagues in the basin can join their voices to advocate for river protection.
Water scarcity was reported as a concern by western US Leagues in Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Kansas. LWV Grand County (Utah) outlined work they’ve done, including holding a Water Conservation Open House, doing a presentation on water source protection, water scarcity, and groundwater protection - more detail can be found - click here. Some California Leagues are looking at water reuse as a way to stretch water supplies. LWV Oregon is involved w/the regional Columbia River Treaty w/Canada. They report that they have published two studies on water quality/quantity (http://lwvor.org/study-archives/lwvorstudyarchivelibrary/#water ) culminating in new positions on which to advocate at the state and local level. Water scarcity is an issue not only in the west and southwest United States but in water-rich places like Florida and Massachusetts, where aquifer protection is a major concern for drinking water protection.
At the LWV Water Advocacy Workshop on June 27, seven Leagues will make presentations on their water work. This document will be updated at that time, to include more detail on the work that’s being done by Leagues to protect and enhance our water resources. We will post videos from this session on this blog in early July, so check back!
Final stats are in on Minnesota Water Action Day 2018. More than 700 people came to the State Capitol for this event. These citizen lobbyists took the message of water protection to their legislators through 145 legislative meetings, touching about 70% of the legislature. 75 youth attended a Youth Summit that was part of this event Overall, participants were highly motivated, especially on the issue of protecting wild rice.
Register now at this link so meetings with your legislators can be set up! Bus transportation provided from multiple sites outside the Twin Cities! The threats to Minnesota's waters are real this session - make your voice heard!
What are the threats? Read this from US News and World Reports: Bills on Wild Rice, Pipeline, Nitrates Advance at Capitol .)
What: Water Action Day 2018
Where: Christ Lutheran Church - 105 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55103 and the Capitol
When: Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Schedule: (Greater MN buses arrive throughout the morning)
- Complimentary breakfast: 8:00 – 10:00 am
- Citizen lobbying 101 (repeating sessions) 8:30, 9:25, 10:20 am
- Drop-in policy briefings (multiple topics): 9:00 - Noon
- Meetings with your representatives: throughout the day*
- Complimentary lunch: 11:00 – 1:00 pm
- Rally in the Rotunda at 2:00 pm
- Youth Summit with Governor Dayton: TBD
Why: Because now is the time to #ProtectOurWater!
* Our team will schedule small group constituent meetings with each legislator (House and Senate) to occur during the day. Participation in these meetings is highly encouraged for all Water Action Day attendees.
Bus transportation: Buses are being coordinated from multiple locations across Greater Minnesota, including Houston, Austin, Duluth, Detroit Lakes and more! Please reserve your spot on your preferred bus route when you register.
Parking: Parking information (both free and low cost) and transit information is included in your registration confirmation email.
Donations: Donations are gladly accepted to help offset the cost of this event. You may donate online by selecting the 'Donation Ticket' as you register, or day-of at the registration table.
Additional Information: Organizers will distribute additional information, including schedules, transportation options, policy highlights and more, to all participants in advance of Water Action Day.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||