by Bob Luck
On Friday afternoon I sat in a parking lot in Menomonie, Wisconsin, about an hour east of St. Paul, and gave my wife a call. She told me that it was pouring rain and hail at our home in downtown Minneapolis, and she wasn’t sure if our rooftop garden of cucumbers and tomatoes would survive. As we spoke, I watched a dark low-hanging cloud approach from the west. It wasn’t raining yet, but the wind was gusting and just after I hung up, the civil defense siren sounded.
All summer long, I’ve been having the same sort of foreboding that I experienced prior to that storm. Apart from a stretch of smoky days, it has been a pleasant summer here in the Bold North. The trout fishing has been excellent, and the Trico hatch has been bigger than any year I can remember. More often than not, we are able to turn off the air conditioner at night and sleep with the windows open. But as I read about wildfires in Canada, heat waves in the South and the recent fire in Maui, I know that climate change will not spare Minnesota. And climate change is not our only challenge: it seems that we are hearing daily about threats to our streams: nitrate contamination in the Driftless Area, or a new CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) in a fragile watershed, or a bottled water plant in the Vermillion River headwaters.
There are no easy answers to the problems that threaten our waters, but we do have the ability to make a difference if we work together. I have two requests that I hope you will consider:
1. Go online today and buy a ticket to Oktoberfish. This is our most important fundraising event of the year, and all proceeds will go toward Youth Education. We won’t be able to protect our streams without getting the younger generation involved, and TU is doing great work in Minnesota to educate Youth about coldwater conservation. I have had some experience talking with groups of youth involved in Trout in the Classroom, and they talk knowledgeably about the relationship between water temperatures and dissolved oxygen, the impact of nitrates on fish health, and the role of macroinvertebrates in the food chain. The last time I spoke with a group of kids who have not had this type of education, they had no idea how fish breathe, they had never heard of nitrates, and they seemed to think the most important role played by insects is to spread disease. We need to change this!
2. Get involved with our advocacy efforts. We have a team of enthusiastic members who will be providing more information about local conservation issues; you can read about some of those issues in this newsletter. If you have time this evening, drive over to River Falls and attend the Army Corps of Engineers' Open House on the Kinnickinnic River Restoration project. Or take a few minutes with your morning coffee to write a letter to your state representative or the DNR. That’s what I did yesterday morning, and it made me feel better!
In case you care to read it, here is what I wrote:
Re: Aquifer Testing in Elko New Market
My name is Bob Luck. I live in Minneapolis, and I am a member of Twin Cities Trout Unlimited. I joined TU because I am interested in protecting cold water resources in Minnesota. We work closely with the MN DNR, and I am grateful for the partnership that we have with you. I often tell my friends that the Twin Cities metro area is the best big city for trout anglers to live in. We have two world class trout fisheries, the Lake Superior North Shore and the Driftless Area, just a short drive away. And several trout streams are even closer—within a 30 minute drive of downtown. The most important of these is the Vermillion River. I fish it regularly, and, while I have yet to land one of the fabled 20” brown trout that inhabit its waters, I did have one on the line for about 10 seconds!
I understand that the the Elko New Market city council approved a plan for a new Niagara bottling facility, located near the headwaters of the Vermillion River, moving the project to its final permitting step: a water appropriation permit review by the DNR. I am concerned about the possible impact this bottling plant may have on spring flow into the Vermillion. As I understand it, it is possible for the DNR to conduct a rigorous aquifer test to ensure this increased groundwater withdrawal won't impact surface waters, including the Vermillion River. I kindly request that you ensure such a test is conducted so that we can ensure that the proposed plant will not adversely affect this special river.
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