River Talk

July 2011 Archives

As described on this Patch.com story from Stillwater, today saw a Senate subcommittee hearing on the St. Croix River crossing bill.

Is it just me, or is there something nicely ironic about reading Tweets on a controversy that has been going on for over 20 years?  That's gotta be at least three generations of communication technology!

Read the story and watch the video to learn more on the substantive results.

Blog Roll 2--arts AND science

The whole notion of "sustainability" in our focus on an inclusive, sustainable future for rivers points attention directly to questions of values and culture.  As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, a "fourth R" for sustainability might be "Rethink." (The post was River Talk July 13, in case the software just dumps you into the blog).

But how do we learn to rethink how we live with rivers?  One of the really dynamic regional sustainability blogs, Green City, Blue Lake, offers a notice of an upcoming event near Cleveland that might be helpful.   A neighborhood "sustainability week" proposes to take the "no impact project " up in scale to "neighborhood."  Why not try it at a watershed or subwatershed level?
Something like "no impact week" sounds hard, requiring lots of commitment.  Where do we get visions or stories of what that new life, and its connection to rivers, might be?  One perhaps obvious point is to make the change fun.  As reported in Indian Country Today, this year's First Peoples' festival in Montreal brings together indigenous artists and others from across the world in a week-long festival celebrating films, concerts, and visual arts.   My guess is that festival-goers might learn a few things about sustainable relationships with the earth and with each other, maybe without the word "sustainability" even being spoken.  Going to be in Montreal next week?  Stop in and see if I guessed right!

Closer to home, the blog of the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative posts community responses on what the Mississippi River "could be" in Minneapolis.

Finally, the "Aquadoc," Michael Campana posted an excerpt from Luna Leopold's "A Reverence for Rivers."  Leopold, son of the great writer and conservationist Aldo Leopold, was one of the most prominent hydrologists in the United States in the 20th century.  

Which just goes to show the even scientists need literature and art, inspiring visions and narratives of what our world could be.

What are your inspiring visions and narratives?  Share them with me and I'll post, along with the sources.

The Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative has entered an intensive community engagement phase. 

Key dates and features:

Public meeting tomorrow evening (July 28) 7-9 pm at Bottineau Park Recreation Center.  More info below.

Fill out the Community Input Survey (more information below).

Someone will plan for the Upper Riverfront--You might as well have a say!

I am copying below information about the different ways you can become involved:

MinneapolisRiverfrontDevelopmentInitiative.com (http://MinneapolisRiverfrontDevelopmentInitiative.com)

With the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board continues its contribution to the revitalization of the Upper Riverfront by bringing to life new destination parks that reconnect people from near and far with America's fourth coast and one of the three great rivers of the world.

The public is encouraged to participate in multiple ways:

At MR|DI Public  Meetings
Light refreshments will be served. Free  parking.

Thursday, July 28, 7-9:00PM
Bottineau   Park Recreation Center
2000 2nd St. NE Minneapolis, MN  55418

Thursday, August 4, 7-9:00PM
Farview   Park
621 29th Ave. N Minneapolis, MN  55411

At neighborhood association  meetings
Visit their online calendar for upcoming meetings (http://minneapolisriverfrontdevelopmentinitiative.com/calendar).  Suggestions for additional neighborhood associations, or civic, non-profit or  worship organizations are welcome.

Take the Community Input Survey  (Continuing through August 9) Find the link on  MinneapolisRiverfrontDevelopmentInitiative.com, pick it up at any Minneapolis  Parks recreation center, or get them from MR|DI Youth Ambassadors at community  events this summer (their schedule is also online at http://minneapolisriverfrontdevelopmentinitiative.com/calendar).

Join  in the conversation about what the "River Is" and "Could Be," a  community-wide exercise to gather individuals' thoughts about the river now  and for the future, found online at http://minneapolisriverfrontdevelopmentinitiative.com/riveris  and Flickr.com/Groups/MplsRiverDesign. 

See youth Ambassadors in action: Seven paid part- and full-time interns receive training on RiverFIRST, the MR|DI, Minneapolis Park Board, and River Is. As a team, they represent the MR|DI at more than 35 community events during an intense nine-week internship. As individuals, they participate in and help shape one of the most significant city-building efforts in their lifetime. Internships are managed in partnership with STEP-UP Achieve, a City of Minneapolis jobs training and experience program of the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Public Schools.

RiverFIRST Slide presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/MplsRiverfrontDesign/riverfront-projects-summer-2010

SiteSeeing slide presentation from the Design Competition: http://minneapolisriverfrontdesigncompetition.com/community

Sign up for the newsletter: http://minneapolisriverfrontdevelopmentinitiative.com/newsletter

Blog Grab Bag #1

One of the challenges of working on questions of sustainable rivers is tracking how much, and how varied, there is taking place on the subject.  I currently follow about 20 bloggers and a hundred or so Twitter feeds, which really isn't all that many by comparison to people who are really in the digital realm.  But it's a handful for me to try to keep track of!

Another challenge is the issue of scale.  While to some extent all river issues are local, they are simultaneously issues that require thinking at the scale of a watershed.  

The Freshwater Society, located in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, tracks issues of fresh water at varying scales.  Its blog is a good source for quite diverse information, nearly always focusing on matters of policy and science.  The entry linked here is particularly apt for my subject today since it is itself a digest summary of current issues.

Hydro-Logic, written by hydrologist M. Garcia, is acutely aware of the "web-like" potential that bloggers have to connect with each other and to form a conversation on particular subjects.  See, in addition to his note of other blogs he follows (and that I do also) his "blog roll" on the left column of his page.  One way to learn some of the basics of the complex discussions taking place on hydrology, and some of the intersections of hydrology with related scientific disciplines, and with policy and engineering, would be to familiarize yourself with these blogs.

I've written before about the Northeast-Midwest Institute's Mississippi River Basin Blog, compiled by policy analyst Mark Gorman.  It remains an indispensable update on national policy issues facing the Mississippi River basin.  

The goal of achieving inclusive, sustainable rivers requires action in engineering, planning, policy and design realms as well as a basis in good science.  The blog Landscape+Urbanism   regularly offers very thoughtful insights on the artful place-making that is required to develop sustainable places that are good human spaces as well.

This is just a quick run-down.  I'll write again soon with some discussion of blogs that address the three areas of knowledge and practice that we focus on:  science, policy (and engineering, planning, etc.) and expressive forms such as art, story, design.

Catching Up On Carp

The "carp saga" is long-running and complex; my probable approach will be to send information out when there's a big development or a good "starting place" in the coverage.

The Detroit Free Press has a good six part series newly released, addressing many of the important complications from a Great Lake-based orientation.  The series has also generated an "opposing viewpoint" column from the Corps of Engineers, which is also worthy of attention.

Not to be outdone, and to reinforce the perception that the Great Lakes region has a very substantial interest in the carp problem, the Detroit News also has posted about alarming news from scientists concerning evidence that carp are approaching the Lakes.

Closer to home (my home in Minnesota at least), the National Park Service Mississippi National River and Recreation Area hosts a "Mississippi River Forum" monthly.  Next month's event, scheduled for August 26, is "Carpzilla" which will examine the carp problem from the standpoint of the encroaching invasive species threat up the Mississippi River and what can be and is being done.  Go here for more information, RSVP/registration, etc.

It seems self-evident (but may not be) that we should listen to people who have lived with our rivers the longest in order to learn how we might develop a sustainable relationship with rivers.

Put it another way:  In less than a decade, New Orleans, founded in 1718, will celebrate its tricentennial.  If there is to be thriving urban life on the Mississippi for the next 3 centuries, we must learn from people native to the river.

Recently a spate of news stories have highlighted relations between native people and rivers in the United States.

Sometimes, the relationship is difficult.  As The Native American Times writes, shoreline stabilization on the Tennessee River, at Moccasin Bend, has uncovered previously-unknown archaeological sites.  Moccasin Bend was a very significant settlement, and the discovery of human burials complicates the river stabilization project considerably.  The project is under the direction of the National Park Service's Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, so federal laws pertaining to human burials at archaeological sites are being followed.

Farther down river, in Louisiana, a site known as Poverty Point, which contains some of the largest "prehistoric" earthworks in North America, has been proposed for possible consideration as a World Heritage Site.  World Heritage Sites, designated by UNESCO, contain qualities of "outstanding universal value."  There are less than 1,000 World Heritage Sites on the globe; inclusion of Poverty Point would likely spur research and protection interest.

It would be a serious error, though, to conclude the Native presence along rivers is historical only.  Two current projects, both in the Pacific Northwest, illustrate collaborations between Native nations and public agencies in preservation of rivers and the varied life forms that depend on rivers.  The New York Times has two stories on coalition building along the Nisqually River.  Also in Washington, a coalition of tribal governments and federal agencies is examining the aquatic ecology of the Elwha River, prior to the removal of a large dam this fall.

Finally, take a look at the Facebook page of a program called Conversations With the Earth.  This effort to ensure that indigenous voices are heard on 

planetary issues, such as climate change, is a "must learn."  River managers on the Upper Mississippi are well advised to listen to native people--they are still here--and collaborate in establishing more sustainability on the Great River.
River Action Volunteer Events are put on by the Mississippi River Fund and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area as innovative ways to grab volunteer help and spice it up with a bit of fun.

This Saturday, June 23, the RAVE will take paddlers on 24 foot voyageur canoes through the wooded Mississippi River Gorge.  

Register here so you don't miss out!
There has been a tremendous amount of work taking place recently, much of it "behind the scenes," in the transformation of the upper Mississippi riverfront in Minneapolis.  The current land use pattern, with swaths of industrial space barely threaded--in some places--with a bike trail, is slated to change in the coming years.

The Mill City Times has been covering the work of the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative quite thoroughly.  Click here for the Mill City Times hope page, and from there, click on "River Hub."  From there, scroll down to "Long Term Vision for Minneapolis Riverfront from MRDI" for a visually rich sense of what's possible.

The MRDI web site itself is a hub for community engagement in the process.  It's a truism, of course, but helping the next generation of inclusive, sustainable riverfront development emerge is going to take the work of everyone.

It is obviously difficult these days to think seriously about political leadership aligning toward a subject as comprehensive and controversial and complex as river management. (snarky aside:  "political leadership" is rapidly joining the examples of oxymorons such as "jumbo shrimp.")

Now back to our point:

Flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers this year has highlighted the imperative for comprehensive, multistate, multi-agency, multi-stakeholder discussions on future management of these great rivers.  On the Missouri alone, the Corps of Engineers Master Manual lists eight targeted uses for which the river must be managed.  Floods this year have exacerbated different viewpoints and values held by the eight states through which the river flows, and a group of US Senators has begun meeting to discuss review of the Manual.

Senate action is timely, but is likely not broad enough in its thinking.  We need to re-think our relation to these rivers, what we ask of them, and, more importantly, what their very size and force requires of us (hint:  probably more than just more levees).  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has made a very promising start in this re-thinking with three editorials published Fourth of July weekend around the topic "One River, One Problem."

The first in the series, and links to the others, is available here.  I highly recommend all of them:  the first sets the historical and geographical frame for the problem; the second offers three solutions, including "widen the river" i.e. let it take up floodplain space as necessary so that the inevitable floods are less costly; the third establishes the political context for the discussion.

One River, One Problem also has a presence on Twitter and Facebook, both of which are proving to be important sources of continuing information.

There are a number of efforts underway to think comprehensively about the Mississippi River as well, a task complicated by the more varied social and physical geography that the Miss traverses.  I'll keep you posted on those efforts as they evolve, and welcome comments on what you think are necessary elements in any substantial efforts toward river sustainability.

A Fourth R for Sustainability

Lots of people know the "three Rs" of sustainability:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."

Today's blog post from Urban Times calls for a fourth:  Rethink.

Indeed, real, "sustainable" sustainability that goes beyond the "buzz word" will require us to rethink almost every aspect of our daily lives, at least in rich countries like the United States:  how do we use water?  get ourselves around?  make intelligent purchases?

I was particularly taken with a quotation from a participant at a recent sustainability roundtable:  ''Culture will trump technology, always."

And how do we change cultures?  Lots of you will say "education," which is a start, but "education pursued through cultural media that inform us much more broadly than the hours we formally commit to "education."  Movies, art, books (or whatever media people use to express themselves these days!).  The poet Gary Snyder has said that the job of poets is to move the world a millionth of an inch, to change the dominant narratives and symbols by which we make sense of the world and our place in it so that "ordinary" people wouldn't think of doing things that counter our understandings of what it means to be a good, decent, responsible person.

Yes indeed.
The Institute on the Environment's Momentum program is holding a photo contest on freshwater.

Winner will be published!

More details, background, previous winners, and rules are here.

Deadline is July 22, so don't delay!

We'll be working with Momentum staff to see if there are appropriate connections between this contest and the River Life program, including potential links on our web site, etc.
I think I first heard this idea about 15 years ago, from my friend and colleague John Anfinson.  Anfinson, then at the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District office and now the head of resource management for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, argued at a conference that we know a lot about the Mississippi River from the perspectives of science and policy.

But we don't know many stories of the river.  Subsequently, of course, we have learned, and told, many more stories, but the fact remains that most of these are variations on a couple of pretty common themes:  river as opportunity, river as freedom, river as natural antidote to industrial urbanism.

If we're going to live sustainably with rivers, we have to know more stories, from more people.  You've heard me comment before on the Bdote Memory Map, which tells a variety of stories by Dakota people about their varied relationships to the Mississippi in the Twin Cities, a place some refer to as "the place of our genesis and our genocide."  The Memory Map continues to grow richer; if you haven't visited recently, go take another look.

I recently learned of another story site, this one focusing on the Yadkin River, in North Carolina.  Yadkin River Story reveals, with excellent production values, by the way, stories of growing up with the river, its importance to communities of faith and to communities who have lived in the area for generations, as well as those who are newly arrived.  

Quiet reflections on a small river such as the Yadkin carry great importance as we try to learn how to live with the rivers that give us life.

Most of the time, when people refer to the energy-water connection, they are referring to the huge amounts of water consumed in the production of energy.  Maybe the best current case is the controversy over hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from deeply-buried deposits.  (Google "hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking" and take your pick from thousands of good articles to learn more).

More directly pertinent to rivers is the news of an oil pipeline rupture last week on the Yellowstone River.  Pipelines such as these criss-cross the continent, bringing oil and gas from "where it is" to "where it's needed."  As many of these go across, or under, rivers, it's a wonder we don't hear more stories such as this.

The New York Times article cited above mentions the complications that high water and river-borne debris are causing for cleanup crews.  

Great Program, Great People

Nice coverage this morning in the Minneapolis StarTribune about the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure (even if they did get the program name wrong!)

What's not to like about getting thousands of young people out on the river every year?

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.