River Talk

Recently in Announcements Category

River Talk has Moved!

We are pleased to announce that the River Talk blog has moved over to our new web site at http://riverlife.umn.edu/rivertalk/

You can find our RSS feed here for pasting into the feed reader of your choice.

Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, as well as see our new web site at http://riverlife.umn.edu

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at holr0002@umn.edu.
Thanks everyone!

All Rivers End Up Somewhere

Well, duh, right?

Of course, rivers end up either at a juncture with another river, at a lake, or at the ocean. 

The reason I bring up this obvious point is the appearance in my email this morning of the latest edition of the NOAA Restoration Atlas, a map of projects sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that are establishing and restoring habitat in significant coastal areas around the United States.

In many of these instances, of course, a river is a key component of the hydrologic regime that creates that particular ecosystem.  So all of us "river rats" should be checking atlases and web sites such as these to learn what else is going on to enhance sustainability along the full lengths of our rivers, even out to their connections with the ocean. We're particularly interested in the projects at/near the mouth of the Mississippi, in the Gulf of Mexico, but there are hundreds of other important projects included.

Besides just the array of work shown, there are likely partners, collaborators, and project ideas contained here.  The atlas is pretty user-friendly and captures issues of scale well through the zoom tool that allows users to move between global, regional, and highly specific perspectives.

As we work to get our River Atlas up and running this fall, there's a lot we can learn from this particular tool!


I guess there may be subjects as varied as the plethora of particularities that come under the heading "rivers," but I don't know of one.  (But then, I don't know about much of anything except rivers, so that probably isn't a very profound statement.  But enough of that...)


I've written recently about rivers and urban planning, about urban rivers and creativity, but there's a completely different scale and set of issues associated with the large dams that alter river flows and people's lives across so much of the world, particularly in the developing world.  Those subjects are the focus of International Rivers.


This is an incredibly rich and powerful web site, full of video and audio testimony concerning the power of dams and their destructive consequences.  The connections between rivers, water access/water security, and the basic human rights of individuals and small communities are very powerfully drawn here.


I won't say any more right now, but will encourage you to go and explore the site.  Give yourself time though; there's a lot to learn here.  Of particular note are documents pertaining to the World Commission on Dams and upcoming efforts to assess its impact 10 years later.


Speaking more locally, we will be part of a group putting on a conference in Minneapolis in November "Experiments on Rivers:  the Consequences of Dams," which will explore some issues that International Rivers has worked so hard on.  Stay tuned for more on that event as the time draws closer.

If you're serious about river sustainability, you need to have access to current information on water protection, management, and conservation policy.  While the US Environmental Protection Agency isn't the only Federal agency concerned with water, it is unquestionably one of the most important; at a certain level, you just have to know what these folks are doing.


Fortunately, the EPA Office of Water makes that keeping up a little easier by sending out a weekly "Water Headlines" online publication.  This often contains links to other agency information sources, grant announcements, and opportunities to comment on agency developments.  For example, this week's email included the following:


3) EPA Seeks Public Comment on Strategic Plan to Move Forward on Agency Priorities: Draft plan will help advance Administrator Jackson's seven priorities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on its draft FY 2011-2015 strategic plan, which helps advance Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's priorities and the mission to protect human health and the environment. Administrator Jackson's seven priorities are: taking action on climate change, improving air quality, protecting America's waters, cleaning up our communities, assuring the safety of chemicals, expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice, and building strong state and tribal partnerships.


The draft plan identifies the measurable environmental and human health benefits the public can expect over the next five years and describes how EPA intends to achieve those results. The draft plan proposes five strategic goals and five cross-cutting fundamental strategies that aim to foster a renewed commitment to accountability, transparency and inclusion. The plan is prepared in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.


The public comment period begins June 18 and closes July 30. EPA will use stakeholder feedback to prepare the final strategic plan, which will be released by September 30. Comments on the draft strategic plan may be submitted through http://www.regulations.gov. The Docket ID number is EPA-HQ-OA-0486.


For the first time, EPA is using a discussion forum to solicit ideas and feedback on the cross-cutting fundamental strategies, a new element of EPA's strategic plan. The agency will use the feedback provided through https://blog.epa.gov/strategicplan as it implements the cross-cutting fundamental strategies and takes actions to change the way EPA does its work. 


Information about the draft plan: http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/plan/plan.htm    


Hey, I'll take advantage of an opportunity to comment on an agency's priorities!  Don't know who'll read it, or what will happen to my comments, but you won't find out if you don't make the effort.


Water Headlines does not have a web link that I know of, but if you want to subscribe to the list, follow these instructions,


Subscribe to Water Headlines
Please forward this message to your friends and colleagues who share an interest in water-related issues and would like to hear from EPA's Office of Water. To subscribe to the Water Headlines listserv:  Send an email message, leave the subject line blank, and address it to:  
In the body of the message write:
Subscribe Water Headlines first name last name
(Please leave one blank space between each word, do not include any other message, and use your actual name - i.e. Subscribe Water Headlines Robert Jones) 
To unsubscribe to the Water Headlines listserv:
Send an email message, leave the subject line blank, and address it to:

Even though it is summer and the University has quieted down a lot, activity connected to rivers continues apace.


Look for entries in the next few weeks on:

  • "Experiments on Rivers:  the Consequences of Dams" a conference to be held in November 2010
  • continued research and outreach at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, located on Hennepin Island in the middle of the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis
  • further development in the "Gopher Ranger" program that connects University students with the Mississippi through recreational and volunteer activities, academic efforts, and career-development programs.  There will be a reception for an extremely successful Gopher Ranger program "Imagining the Mississippi," held in Mill City Museum on July 7.

More to follow--stay tuned!

Blog post offered from our guest editor Anna Metcalfe:

Wishes for the Sky, an event begun three years ago by Marcus Young, the City of St. Paul's Public Artist Resident, will be held this coming Sunday, April 25 on Harriet Island.Wishes for the Sky is a public art event in celebration of Earth Day Inspired by Asian traditions of flying wishes on kites, the public is encouraged to re-contextualize this gesture in the spirit of spring and environmental sustainability. This year will feature an Open Drum Circle Finale by Marc Anderson, a yurt design for a sculpture called House to Touch the Wind by Peter Kramer, and two new calligraphy scrolls by Shen Pei. The event is held from 11 am - 5 pm. Volunteers have been requested on April 24 and 25

For more information about the event visit: www.wishesforthesky.org

May there be good kite-flying breezes to host a myriad of wishes and lovely artistic delights this weekend!


We believe that the University of Minnesota is the only large, comprehensive university located directly on one of the major rivers of the world (The Mississippi keeping company, in this respect, with the Amazon, the Nile, the Yangtze, the Congo, etc.).  Furthermore, we are virtually certain that the U of M is the only comprehensive university located in a national park.
So what?
Answering that question occupies much of the effort of the River Life Program and will be, in one form or another, one of the recurring themes of this blog.  But for now, let me use an upcoming public event as an example of one of the things that it can mean to be a university on a river.
Map of the Gorge of the Mississippi River
On December 3 at 4:00, the regular "Thursdays at Four" series hosted by the University's Institute for Advanced Study will feature "Imagining the River:  the Mississippi Gorge."  During this event, which will feature presentations from two scholars associated with the University and two who are not, we will examine possible futures for the Mississippi gorge from a number of angles.  We'll hear from a scientist who is near completion of a study of the feasibility of ecological restoration in the gorge.  We'll hear from two artists--one from the University and one a well-known community artist--and learn their visions for this place.  And we'll hear from one of the Commissioners of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the public entity that perhaps owns more of the gorge land than any other.  The gorge, for those of you not from the Twin Cities, is that reach of the Mississippi located between St. Anthony Falls and the junction with the Minnesota.  The steep-walled bluffs and narrow floodplain mark this as the only "true" gorge on the entire length of the Mississippi.
I don't know what the speakers will come up with on December 3.  If you're in the neighborhood, you're invited to come by and listen.  I'll post a comment or two afterwards, I am sure.  But I'm also sure of this:  one of the defining characteristics of being a "university of the river" is that we talk with community members, not just to them, that we listen as much as or more than we talk, and that we orient our teaching, learning, and research as much for the benefit of the broader community as for ourselves.

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