For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  


  • 26 Jan 2016 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    The second annual Rochester EarthFest Expo will be held April 24th at the Mayo Civic Center Auditorium. The goal of the Expo is to promote sustainable living through education, interactive displays, and promoting green products. Our theme this year will be "100% Renewable Energy by 2031". 2016 will be an exciting year with Mayor Brede's proclamation for 100% renewable energy by 2031, the DMC sustainability plan, and the upcoming Rochester Energy Action Plan.


    The Expo is the grand finale of a 7-day EarthFest celebration. The Expo will be held at the Mayo Civic Center Exhibition Hall on April 24th from 10AM-4PM. Setup will begin at 7:00 that morning. EarthFest is organized by the Rochester Climate Coalition, which is a coalition of non-profit organizations who are interested in promoting an earth-friendly sustainable lifestyle.


     In addition to our green building and sustainable living commercial booths, the fair will feature:

    •          A way cool Zumbro Watershed Partnership Booth and ...
    •          Visits from "Zumbro Zoe" our 6-foot SpokesOtter, photos with the Otter

    •          Electric Vehicle show

    •          Educational classes

    •          Children’s activities

    •          Non-profit environmental group displays

    •          Keynote speaker to be determined 


  • 05 Jan 2016 5:07 PM | Anonymous

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2016
    Contact: Megan Duffey Moeller
    City of Rochester, Public Works Department
    201 4th Street SE, Room 108
    Rochester, MN 55904

    Mussels of Southeastern Minnesota

    Speaker Series at Saint Mary’s University – Cascade Meadow

    Who knew the Zumbro River’s mussels could be so fascinating! Join us to learn all about these important invertebrates, including: how they live, how they reproduce, why we should care about them, threats to their wellbeing, and how they can tell us about the health of our waterways. We will also learn how the Minnesota DNR’s native mussel program has been working to protect these important animals and what they plan to do in the future.
    Presentation by Shelby Marr, Malacologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
    This program is FREE of charge.
    Date: January 26, 2016
    Time: 6-7:30 pm
    Place: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – Cascade Meadow
    2900 19th Street NW, Rochester, 55901
    Cost: Free
    No reservations are necessary.

  • 22 Dec 2015 3:41 PM | Anonymous

    Documentary Screening: Project WILD THING; Saturday, January 9, 10:00 a.m., Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center, 2900--19th St. NW, Rochester, MN

    Together with Project Get Outdoors (GO), Cascade Meadow invites parents, grandparents, child care providers and others concerned about the well-being of children to come learn more about connecting kids to nature for their health and to foster future stewards of our natural world.

    The Project WILD THING documentary follows British filmaker, David Bond, who is worried about his children. His kids' waking hours are dominated by a cacophony of marketing, and a screen dependence threatening to turn them into glassy-eyed zombies. Like city kids everywhere, they spend way too much time indoors - not like it was back in his day. David decides it's time to get back to nature – literally. Project WILD THING brings to light the obstacles keeping children from experiencing the outdoors and presents accessible opportunities to reconnect families to the natural world.

    Audience participants will have the opportunity to share in a group dialogue facilitated by representatives of Project GO and the local medical community. Free resources will be available to help you connect children to nature.

  • 11 Dec 2015 1:42 PM | Anonymous

    If you are looking for ways that you, or those who work with you, could find proven land uses practices that will lead to cleaner rivers and streams, then check out the new University of MN Extension "Field to Steam: Managing Water in Rural Landscapes" guide. Download it as a pdf here.

  • 11 Dec 2015 1:28 PM | Anonymous

    While the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) is creating a map of the "public waters" that will require an average 50-food vegetated buffer, a part of the legislation gives county Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) the ability and responsibility to identify waters that are not listed as "pubic waters."

    According to current and former SE MN conservation staff, in come cases, one portion of a stream might be defined as a "public waters" and another stretch, just 100 yards downstream might not be "public waters."

    This new legislation will let local conservation district staff fix inconsistencies in the defined "public waters." Local residents and conservation groups can also ask the local SWCDs to add waters to the "public waters" list.

    Want to see the proposed MN DNR Public Waters map? Click on this link.

  • 11 Dec 2015 1:05 PM | Anonymous

    On Thursday, Dec. 10, MPCA Watershed Specialist Justin Watkins gave a presentation about the state of rivers and water in southeastern Minnesota. If you missed the presentation or would like to see Justin's slides, Click Here.

  • 12 Oct 2015 5:30 PM | Anonymous

    What do you value most about your community?

    How is climate change impacting what you value most?

    How can you join with neighbors to implement community solutions?


    Join us for a free public convening of experts, community members and storytellers to learn about local climate change impacts and commit to real solutions. All ages welcome; food is provided.


    Monday, October 12, 2015

    5:30 pm – Resource Fair, Registration, Refreshments
    6:15 pm – Convening
    8:45 pm – Dessert Reception

    Rochester Technical and Community College
    Heintz Center, Commons Area
    1926 Collegeview Rd E
    Rochester, MN 55904

  • 14 Sep 2015 3:18 PM | Anonymous

    Fall is near - and that means it's time to deal with leaves…and composting them is the answer! You can get a discounted compost bin at the Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Truckload Sale. This sale is being organized by Natural Upgrades in a partnership between the City of Rochester, Zumbro Watershed, and Rain Reserve.


    The sale is being held Saturday, September 19 from 12-4pm at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds on a first-come first-serve basis, but supplies are limited. More information is available at This event is open to both Rochester residents and non-residents.


    Compost bins will be sold for only $69.99 and 50 gallon rain barrels with a diverter are just $119.99. These closed rain barrels are mosquito-proof, will not crack if frozen, come in multiple colors and sizes, and include a clog-free diverter and high-flow spigot. For more information on the rain barrel and compost bin, visit Residents of Rochester, Owatonna, and Austin are also eligible for a $10 rebate through their utility provider.


    Megan Duffey Moeller

    Stormwater Educator

    City of Rochester Public Works Department

    201 4th Street SE, Room 108

    Rochester, MN 55904


    Follow us on Twitter! @CleanWaterRoch
  • 10 Sep 2015 3:51 PM | Anonymous

    Thanks to the support of SELCO, the Zumbro Watershed Partnership has completed two educational brochures to help people learn about and take action to clean up and protect the Zumbro River and the Zumbro Watershed. Staff will be distributing copies of the brochures at area libraries and nature centers. You can also download a copy of the brochures on the ZWP home page,

  • 14 Jul 2015 6:31 PM | Anonymous

    The many misconceptions about Minnesota's new buffer program

    By Ron Meador


    On buffers, there are plentiful examples of landowners doing the right thing without threat of prosecution.

    Has Minnesota’s chronic underperformance on protecting public waters with buffer strips been a problem of over-ambitious goals, weakness in the law or lax enforcement in the face of landowner resistance?

    As the state begins an ambitiously revamped buffers program, the answer matters. And if you’ve understood past problems to lie primarily in the enforcement realm, then we share in what I heard described recently — and authoritatively — as a widespread misconception.

    Speaking at an Environmental Initiative forum on the water-quality impacts of agriculture, Sarah Strommen, who manages the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ side of the new buffer initiative, said it has been commonly believed (and reflected in news coverage) that state law has long required 16½-foot buffers along public drainage ditches and 50-footers beside most lakes and streams.

    In fact, she said, about 80 percent of the public ditches in Minnesota’s agricultural counties – and nearly two-thirds of watercourses overall – hadn’t been subject to buffer requirements prior to enactment of Gov. Mark Dayton’s landmark program this year.

    Being among the scribblers who had helped to perpetuate this misreading of the regulatory history, I made a note to learn more and stop repeating the error. And then it occurred to me to wonder:

    What else may be poorly understood about the new buffers program, and the past deficiencies it aims to correct?

    So on Thursday I put that question to Strommen and to John Jaschke, who heads the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, the agency that will have the primary enforcement authority role on buffers going forward.

    Because matters of compliance and enforcement are so crucial, we began by digging into why things didn’t go better under the old system – and why they’re likely to improve with the new one.

    Limits of the old laws

    “The problem was really with the laws being inadequate to get buffers in place,” Jaschke said. “There were some laws requiring some buffers in some cases, in some places.”

    For public ditches, he explained, there was indeed a 1977 statute requiring that a one-rod buffer strip be left uncultivated – but it only applied after the county, watershed district or other local ditch authority had gone through a proceeding known as a “redetermination of benefits.”

    These proceedings establish whose land benefits from the ditch, and whose has been harmed, and how costs and compensation should be apportioned among landowners. Not surprisingly, it’s a process that can take some time and doesn’t necessarily foster enthusiasm.

    “In the case of Freeborn County, they very systematically took that on and made determinations for all their ditches, and established one-rod buffers for them,” Jaschke said. “But overall, the rate of progress has been 20 percent over the last 38 years – so the projection was, this will take 150 years to complete under that system.”

    Sarah Strommen

    As for lakes and streams, Strommen explained, there was a state rule requiring 50-foot protective buffers in most cases. But the requirements weren’t officially applied, or enforceable, until enactment of local zoning ordinances.

    In egregious cases, Jaschke said, it was always possible to prosecute bad behavior in the buffer zone. But that required action by the county attorney, “and county attorneys typically have their hands full with so many other things.”

    Nevertheless – and this is the really good news from Jaschke’s and Strommen’s point of view – there are plentiful examples of landowners doing the right thing without threat of prosecution. Jaschke again:

    There were six counties we looked at more carefully than others because they undertook a more systematic implementation of shoreland buffers, and they had compliance rates in the upper 90 percent range because they were able to get people good information about how to take care of the requirement.

    Enforcement is important, but in the end it’s a very small portion of the work. More comes from giving people information and assistance to get the work accomplished.

    In Olmsted County, I think they contacted 470-some landowners and they ended up with only about three where they had to take some kind of action to get compliance.

    About ‘one size fits all’

    I asked about the frequent refrain from certain ag quarters during the legislative session that the Dayton plan was a “one size fits all” approach, too inflexible to address the diversity of protection needs across the landscape.

    Jaschke said that while buffers are the default requirement – and an effective tool against soil erosion and sedimentation, still, despite “being kind of a 1940s technology” – other options can be used where they make more sense.

    In some places we’re not ever going to get the stream bank stable with just roots, because the bank is very high or there’s high velocity in the stream. Some people use rock, that’s common, but we could be using more bioengineered techniques. ...

    And there may be places where the issue is filtering runoff better than a buffer can do, subsurface techniques that use, say, wood chips to de-nitrify water before it goes into the stream. These are different techniques that are being tried in real places, with real results.

    None of them are on the front edge of being fully certified or widely adopted, but there’s always room on the landscape to try new practices as long as we’ve got a good design and a little money to help it happen.

    And Strommen pointed out that the program includes substantial new funding for riparian protection from Legacy Amendment revenues; additional money may become available through bonding and state/federal conservation efforts such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement program.

    Central vs. local control

    Another possible misconception: Making the buffer requirements more uniform, and creating new enforcement authority at the state level, necessarily diminishes local control.

    The new law retains local enforcement options if officials want to exercise them, Jaschke said; what’s different is that, should those efforts prove insufficient, his agency can step in. In addition, the new law creates the possibility of civil enforcement (and penalties) by county administrators or conservation district as an alternative to cumbersome criminal proceedings.

    And the redetermination-of-benefits process will continue, Strommen noted. But it no longer must precede application of the buffer rules to a particular system of drainage ditches.

    This decoupling of the of the two steps means that “the landowner is responsible for putting in the buffer regardless, and when they’re ready to do it – they don’t have to wait for the system,” she said. “And the redetermination of benefits can come later – possibly resulting in some financial assistance for the work they’ve done.”

    And the new law also applies statewide the provisions of a little-used, county-option soil erosion statute that empowered counties to take action in cases where excessive soil erosion resulting from poor management practices was damaging public waters or other landowners’ property.

    Only five counties, all in southeastern Minnesota, bothered to “opt in” and only two ever tried to use its enforcement provisions, Jaschke said. Now all counties have the power to take action in such extreme cases, and also have the option to pursue civil enforcement instead of criminal prosecution.

    “People will view new law this as a centralized response,” Jaschke said, “but from the very beginning there’s been emphasis on keeping the local approach through the soil and water conservation districts.

    "They’re in every county, they work with landowners, they’ve been doing it for decades, building relationships conservation districts. And that’s going to be the most important part of this going forward: having local experts help landowners figure out how to comply, offering technical assistance and helping them to do it themselves."

Contact Us:

Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
1485 Industrial Drive NW, Room 102
Rochester, MN 55901

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