Peter Gove is chair of the St. Croix River Association board of directors. SCRA is a St. Croix 360 partner.
Last year was a year of multiple accomplishments for the St. Croix River Association, but not without challenges to protect, restore and celebrate the magnificent but fragile St. Croix River and its watershed.
This was the fourth full year of operations for our ‘new’ organization since we began the 2008 transformation to a watershed-wide advocacy group with the resources to focus on water quality, land protection, river corridor stewardship, invasive species and supporting our national park, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. So much great work by so many river lovers!
Looking back on River Time editions this past year, our expanded web site, SCRA E-news and the excellent coverage of St. Croix issues in the St. Croix 360 web site, it’s impossible to report all of our good work. But I want to share a few highlights:
- Dr. Marti Erickson’s inspiring talk on the bond between children and nature at our spring meeting, and the fall gathering at the NW Fur Post’s Festival of the Voyageur;
- the hiring of Monica Zachay as our River Protection Steward (SCRA’s fourth staff member);
- new office space in the St. Croix Falls library;
- Paddle 2012 on the Namekagon;
- SCRA’s growing role in the 13th annual St. Croix Basin Protection Conference;
- growth in giving to The River Fund, and our partnership with the NPS and St. Croix Valley Foundation;
- adoption by your board of directors of the 2013-15 Strategic Plan;
- approval by the EPA of the Lake St. Croix TMDL plan with a goal to reduce by 20% phosphorus entering the river;
- expanded opportunities for volunteers; and,
- in December, the first meeting of our Advisory Council, an impressive group of over 20 individuals — from business, academia, nonprofits & government — whose reputation, experience and advice will be a continuing asset to the Association.
Despite all of this progress, 2012 was also a year of challenges. It became apparent that the threat of several species of Asian Carp to the health of rivers and lakes in this region was not only real but also increasing. SCRA hosted an Asian Carp forum in Stillwater and participated in several consortia confronting this menace to the viability of the St. Croix River ecosystem, including the recreational industries that depend on a healthy river.
While dialogue on the threat of invasive species has increased, much of it is focused on the Mississippi River. The options like those on the Mississippi to utilize the lock and dam system to slow the spread of Asian carp are just not available on the lower St. Croix – 52 river miles essentially unprotected from these voracious species. ‘Save the St. Croix’ must be our continuing watchword relative to Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species.
The past year saw a dramatic increase in proposals to mine frac sand at sites along the St. Croix River and even more on the Mississippi south of Red Wing. In addition, a proposal to reopen a gravel mine adjacent to the Riverway boundary in Scandia was followed closely by SCRA, and will likely be a key ‘threat to the resource’ meriting our continuing attention, depending on how Scandia chooses to proceed with this permit application.
SCRA is developing a model ordinance on non-metallic mining that local units of government can consider to properly regulate these mining operations. We also monitor current mining sites to ensure compliance with applicable statutes and regulations.
Last year saw the first-ever congressional exemption for a new bridge over a designated Wild and Scenic River since this federal statute was enacted almost 45 years ago in legislation authored by Senators Gaylord Nelson and Walter Mondale. Your Association, joined by dozens of state, regional and national organizations, urged the Governors and congressional delegations of Minnesota and Wisconsin to build a new bridge in Stillwater, but one less costly and intrusive than the freeway style design advocated by development interests. Our efforts were regrettably not successful.
My thanks to our board of directors, staff, volunteers and thousands of supporters throughout the watershed for your support of the St. Croix River Association!