Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

‘State of the River’ report comes to Schaar’s Bluff Nov. 15

Trevor Russell, right, is the author of the State of the River report, which assesses the health of the Mississippi River. He is pictured with Lark Weller of the National Park Service. (Submitted photo)

If you've been to the Hastings riverfront, you've been in a national park. Hastings is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area or MNRRA, the 72-mile national park stretching from Dayton on the north to the Mighty Mississippi's confluence with the St. Croix just downstream.

To find out how our local stretch of the Mississippi River is faring, the local unit of the National Park Service partnered with Friends of the Mississippi River to create the "State of the River Report." Released in late September, the updated report has been making headlines throughout the state.

Now, the Hastings Environmental Protectors are bringing Trevor Russell, report co-author and FMR water director, to Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center 7:30-8:30 p.m., Nov. 15, to answer the perennial question, "So, how is the Mississippi River?" and answer questions about how everyone can help protect it. The presentation and Q&A are free, but capacity is limited and registration via fmr.org/events or Alicia Uzarek, 651-222-2193 x29, is recommended.

The Hastings dam, Lock and Dam No. 2, is one of the key sites for recording levels of several pollutants profiled in the State of the River report, such as sediment, nitrates and chloride.

About the report

The "State of the River Report" focuses on the status and trends of 14 key indicators of the river’s health, including bacteria, phosphorus, nitrate and sediment levels, as well as the river’s viability for recreation and wildlife. It also addresses new or emerging contaminants of concern, such as microplastic fibers and chloride.

“The Mississippi River is a complex natural system, with many factors affecting its overall health and vitality,” said Whitney Clark, executive director of the Friends of the Mississippi River. “‘State of the River’ serves as a report card, helping us determine how the river is doing compared to the past, and which efforts have been effective at improving its health.”

Among the positive trends: bald eagle, mussel and fish populations are increasing, signs of a restored river home to healthy and abundant wildlife. However, there are also disturbing trends in lead levels for local eaglets, and fish consumption advisories are in place throughout the river due to elevated levels of contaminants like PFOS and mercury.

Recreation and aquatic habitat on the river is being increasingly degraded by excess sediments and phosphorus, and some portions of the river are impaired with excess bacteria. Much of this can be attributed to agricultural sources.

Several indicators show disturbing trends and are causes for serious concern moving forward, according to the more than 30 scientific advisors from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Metropolitan Council, the University of Minnesota and other agencies and research groups who helped compile the report:

1. River flows have multiplied to worrisome levels (24 percent increase since 1976). This leads to destabilization and also flushes large amounts of pollution into the river.

2. Nitrate concentrations have increased substantially (44 percent increase since 1976), potentially expanding the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

3. Invasive Asian carp continue to move upstream, threatening aquatic life and recreation throughout much of the state.

4. A number of additional contaminants, such as triclosan, pharmaceuticals and microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic shed from everything from car tires to washing our polyester and synthetic clothing — present risks to the river that, while not yet fully understood, are cause for concern due to their potential impacts on human and aquatic health.

“To solve these problems, we need to better understand their causes and consequences,” said John Anfinson, Superintendent, National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. “This report provides a solid base from which to spur a public conversation about how to preserve and improve the river, and develop strategies for doing so.”

Partners in stewardship

Local group Hastings Environmental Protectors reached out to Friends of the Mississippi River to bring the "State of the River" to Hastings.

HEP and FMR have worked together for years through the Vermillion Stewards, a program that focuses on the Vermillion River, which meets the Mississippi near the Hastings Marina. Participants learn about the Vermillion, a cold prairie river renown for its trophy trout, and help care for it through events where they restore habitat or build rain barrels and learn other ways to make their homes river-friendly. The free, events-based program is organized by FMR and funded by the local watershed district, the Vermillion River Joint Powers Organization.

Vermillion Stewards volunteers are helping to tend and restore several Hastings parks and natural areas, from the expansive Sand Coulee Prairie Scientific and Natural Area to the pollinator patches recently planted by HEP and FMR in city parks. In addition to providing habitat and natural beauty, such projects and plantings are helping to protect the watershed. With roots reaching as long as 12 feet, prairie plants help hold the soil, reducing erosion and also filter out pollutants that would otherwise make their way into both the Vermillion and Mississippi rivers.

This type of connection between land-use and river health is exactly what the State of the River Report reinforces. A great deal of the presentation will focus on large-scale issues, such as the impact of agricultural land-use changes on river flow and pollution levels. But there will also be a good deal of focus on what all of us can do in our homes, yards and communities.

"Residents make choices every day that impact the river," said Russell.

Towards this end, three companion guides have been published with the report: 1) a Stewardship Guide that provides practical steps for individuals to take in their homes, yards and communities to improve the health of the Mississippi River, 2) a brand-new Teacher’s Guide to help teachers and students carry the lessons of the report into the classroom, and 3) Friends of the Mississippi River’s Policy Guide that offers priority actions that federal, state and local leaders can take for the river.

The State of the River Report and companion guides will be available at the presentation and are also available at www.StateOfTheRiver.com.

The State of the River Report was funded by the McKnight Foundation, the Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation, the Mortenson Family Foundation, the Capitol Region Watershed District, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and Mississippi Park Connection.

This article was submitted by Friends of the Mississippi River.

If you've been to the Hastings riverfront, you've been in a national park. Hastings is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area or MNRRA, the 72-mile national park stretching from Dayton on the north to the Mighty Mississippi's confluence with the St. Croix just downstream.

To find out how our local stretch of the Mississippi River is faring, the local unit of the National Park Service partnered with Friends of the Mississippi River to create the "State of the River Report." Released in late September, the updated report has been making headlines throughout the state.

Now, the Hastings Environmental Protectors are bringing Trevor Russell, report co-author and FMR water director, to Schaar's Bluff Gathering Center 7:30-8:30 p.m., Nov. 15, to answer the perennial question, "So, how is the Mississippi River?" and answer questions about how everyone can help protect it. The presentation and Q&A are free, but capacity is limited and registration via fmr.org/events or Alicia Uzarek, 651-222-2193 x29, is recommended.

The Hastings dam, Lock and Dam No. 2, is one of the key sites for recording levels of several pollutants profiled in the State of the River report, such as sediment, nitrates and chloride.

About the Report

The "State of the River Report" focuses on the status and trends of 14 key indicators of the river’s health, including bacteria, phosphorus, nitrate and sediment levels, as well as the river’s viability for recreation and wildlife. It also addresses new or emerging contaminants of concern, such as microplastic fibers and chloride.

“The Mississippi River is a complex natural system, with many factors affecting its overall health and vitality,” said Whitney Clark, executive director of the Friends of the Mississippi River. “‘State of the River’ serves as a report card, helping us determine how the river is doing compared to the past, and which efforts have been effective at improving its health.”

Among the positive trends: bald eagle, mussel and fish populations are increasing, signs of a restored river home to healthy and abundant wildlife. However, there are also disturbing trends in lead levels for local eaglets, and fish consumption advisories are in place throughout the river due to elevated levels of contaminants like PFOS and mercury.

Recreation and aquatic habitat on the river is being increasingly degraded by excess sediments and phosphorus, and some portions of the river are impaired with excess bacteria. Much of this can be attributed to agricultural sources.

Several indicators show disturbing trends and are causes for serious concern moving forward, according to the more than 30 scientific advisors from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Metropolitan Council, the University of Minnesota and other agencies and research groups who helped compile the report:

1. River flows have multiplied to worrisome levels (24 percent increase since 1976). This leads to destabilization and also flushes large amounts of pollution into the river.

2. Nitrate concentrations have increased substantially (44 percent increase since 1976), potentially expanding the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

3. Invasive Asian carp continue to move upstream, threatening aquatic life and recreation throughout much of the state.

4. A number of additional contaminants, such as triclosan, pharmaceuticals and microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic shed from everything from car tires to washing our polyester and synthetic clothing — present risks to the river that, while not yet fully understood, are cause for concern due to their potential impacts on human and aquatic health.

“To solve these problems, we need to better understand their causes and consequences,” said John Anfinson, Superintendent, National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. “This report provides a solid base from which to spur a public conversation about how to preserve and improve the river, and develop strategies for doing so.”

Partners in Stewardship

Local group Hastings Environmental Protectors reached out to Friends of the Mississippi River to bring the "State of the River" to Hastings.

HEP and FMR have worked together for years through the Vermillion Stewards, a program that focuses on the Vermillion River, which meets the Mississippi near the Hastings Marina. Participants learn about the Vermillion, a cold prairie river renown for its trophy trout, and help care for it through events where they restore habitat or build rain barrels and learn other ways to make their homes river-friendly. The free, events-based program is organized by FMR and funded by the local watershed district, the Vermillion River Joint Powers Organization.

Vermillion Stewards volunteers are helping to tend and restore several Hastings parks and natural areas, from the expansive Sand Coulee Prairie Scientific and Natural Area to the pollinator patches recently planted by HEP and FMR in city parks. In addition to providing habitat and natural beauty, such projects and plantings are helping to protect the watershed. With roots reaching as long as 12 feet, prairie plants help hold the soil, reducing erosion and also filter out pollutants that would otherwise make their way into both the Vermillion and Mississippi rivers.

This type of connection between land-use and river health is exactly what the State of the River Report reinforces. A great deal of the presentation will focus on large-scale issues, such as the impact of agricultural land-use changes on river flow and pollution levels. But there will also be a good deal of focus on what all of us can do in our homes, yards and communities.

"Residents make choices every day that impact the river," said Russell.

Towards this end, three companion guides have been published with the report: 1) a Stewardship Guide that provides practical steps for individuals to take in their homes, yards and communities to improve the health of the Mississippi River, 2) a brand-new Teacher’s Guide to help teachers and students carry the lessons of the report into the classroom, and 3) Friends of the Mississippi River’s Policy Guide that offers priority actions that federal, state and local leaders can take for the river.

The State of the River Report and companion guides will be available at the presentation and are also available at www.StateOfTheRiver.com.

The State of the River Report was funded by the McKnight Foundation, the Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation, the Mortenson Family Foundation, the Capitol Region Watershed District, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and Mississippi Park Connection.

Advertisement
randomness