For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  


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  • 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."

  • 03 Jun 2015 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    Zumbro Zoe will be part of the Crossings at Carnegie Garden Party on Friday and Saturday, June 12-13.

    June 12, 4-8 pm

    June 13, 11-7:30 pm

    In a big block party festival with live music, food vendors, art booths, garden items, a Zumbro Watershed Education booth, and of course, Zumbro Zoe, the worlds tallest River Otter! Get your picture taken with her during the event.
  • 29 May 2015 12:14 PM | Anonymous

    One Man’s River
    Saturday, June 6, 10:00 a.m.

     John Weiss, Rochester Post-Bulletin


    Reporter John Weiss has spent years exploring the Zumbro River. Hear what he’s learned after decades of exploring the Zumbro. Hear what he’s seen and heard on the river. Also learn how what he sees on the river relates to the results of river sampling projects.  This program is part of Cascade Meadow’s Zumbro River Focus in June.

    The program takes place at the Cascade Meadow Center, 2900-19th St. NW, Rochester, MN

  • 21 May 2015 10:07 AM | Anonymous



    Tyrol Ski & Sports presents the 10th Annual Reel Paddling Film Festival at Cascade Meadow,

    2900 19th St NW on Friday, June 5th, 2015 at 7 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm). Proceeds to benefit

    Zumbro Watershed Partnership.

    The Reel Paddling Film Festival is an international film tour presenting the world’s best paddling

    films of the year on screens in 100-plus cities across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom,

    Europe and Australia.

    Audiences can expect to see stand-up paddleboarding, hairy whitewater action, sea kayakers

    exploring remote coastlines, motivating environmental documentaries, and hilarious short films

    capturing the lighter side of paddling life. The Rochester screening will include titles such as

    Grand Canyon of the Stikine, Paddle To DC: A Quest for Clean Water, Turnwater Solitude and

    How Not To Steal A Kayak…

    With your $12.00 ($15 at the door) ticket to our Reel Paddling Film Festival screening you’ll

    receive free digital subscriptions to Rapid, Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots and Kayak Angler

    magazines, a $39 value.

    The Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour is produced by Rapid Media and presented in

    Rochester, MN by Tyrol Ski & Sports on June 5th at 7 pm.

    For tickets and information call Tyrol Ski & Sports 507-288-1683. You can purchase tickets

    online by going to

    Media Contacts

    Your Local Host:

    Tyrol Ski & Sports, 507-288-1683,

    RPFF Coordinator:

    Ray Bretzloff, (613) 706-0677 x118,


  • 29 Apr 2015 11:22 AM | Anonymous

    New Report Shines Light on Water Quality Concerns in Minnesota

    Urban and agricultural runoff impairing the quality of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams


    St. Paul, Minn.-- A new report released today by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provides additional evidence that agricultural and urban runoff is contributing significantly to the impairment of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The new study, which monitored half of the state’s 81 major watersheds, takes an in-depth look at the lakes and streams in major drainage areas. According to the MPCA, it is unlikely that current or new clean water funding can significantly improve the deteriorating conditions of many of the state’s waters – unless the state employs new strategies to prevent the pollution from happening in the first place.


    The study, “Swimmable, Fishable, Fixable?” (, found that poor water quality is concentrated in certain regions of the state, especially in southern Minnesota. MPCA researchers noted that in heavily farmed areas, surrounding lakes and streams had high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. These high levels make it difficult to support aquatic life, and in some cases prohibit people from swimming in lakes and streams. The report’s findings conclude that poor water quality in southern Minnesota waters is caused predominantly by agricultural runoff. Urban areas also suffer from elevated levels of water pollution caused by runoff.


    “We have seen many of these patterns developing over the last 20 years. With the comprehensive watershed information we are gathering, we are much closer to a diagnosis that can point us toward the changes that need to happen,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “While the Legacy Funds Minnesota citizens invested are helping us take steps forward, it’s clear that we can’t buy our way to healthy waters.”


    Key Findings in the Report

    The report released today was compiled by the MPCA over the last several years, and was funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment. The MPCA found that phosphorus and nitrogen, high bacteria levels, and mercury contamination continue to be problems in many of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams. These pollutants, which are typically the product of urban and agricultural land runoff, have left many bodies of water inadequate for human consumption and aquatic life. Key findings from the report include:


    ·         Urban and Agricultural Impact – Areas of Minnesota with larger human and livestock populations are struggling the most with water-quality. According to the MPCA study, runoff from land under intense urban or agricultural uses has left half or less of the lakes in those areas clean enough for healthy aquatic life and enjoyable swimming.

    ·         Bacteria Levels – Higher levels of bacteria were discovered in many Minnesota waters. Generally, higher levels of bacteria indicate feedlot runoff or human waste in a water body, indicating it may be unsafe for swimming and other recreation.


    ·         Mercury-Tainted Fish – Despite Minnesota’s progress in preventing mercury from entering lakes, rivers, and streams from our state’s power utilities and other sources, the MPCA study concluded that mercury remains widely present in fish. The vast majority of lakes and streams examined in the study – 97 percent of 490 stream sections and 95 percent of 1,214 lakes studied – contain fish tainted by mercury.


    ·         High Levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus – The MPCA study also found that watersheds that are heavily farmed or developed tend to have high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids in their waters. Nitrogen and phosphorus can cause algal blooms while suspended solids make the water murky. These pollutants hurt aquatic life and recreational opportunities.


    ·         Problems Vary Regionally – While urban and agricultural runoff were the general source of problems across Minnesota, the types of pollution causing problems in specific bodies of water varied regionally. Typical problems included issues such as low oxygen levels, excess nutrients, excess sediment, disruption of natural water flows, a lack of habitat, and a lack of connectivity between different bodies of water.


    Recommended Strategies to Improve Water Quality

    In addition to identifying stressors and healthy conditions in Minnesota’s lakes and streams, the MPCA and partner agencies have recommended strategies to restore and protect our waters. Those recommendations include: stream buffers, nutrient and manure management, storm water controls, and in-lake treatments. While most strategies are tailored for their specific watersheds, some strategies recommended by the MPCA do call for stronger and more targeted application of state and local laws on feedlots, shoreland, septic systems, storm water controls, and wastewater discharges.


    “We are in this for the long haul – and we are talking 20 or more years,” said Commissioner Stine. “We need continued vigilance to protect our healthy waters and take targeted action to restore those that are impaired. It took decades for our lakes and streams to become polluted, and it will take many more years to restore them.”



    The mission of the MPCA is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.

    St. Paul • Brainerd • Detroit Lakes • Duluth • Mankato • Marshall • Rochester • Willmar • Toll-free and TDD 800-657-3864 


  • 15 Apr 2015 4:03 PM | Anonymous

    You can learn all about EarthFest events in Rochester at their website

    Come by the Mayo Civic Center on Sunday, April 26 to visit the ZWP Booth, and maybe even meet Zumbro Zoe!

  • 06 Apr 2015 3:37 PM | Anonymous

    Study: Minn. converted more wetlands than any other state when crop prices spiked

    Business Elizabeth Dunbar ·
    This map by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers represents the amount of new cropland expansion as compared to existing cropland in 2008. Areas in red are hot spots where the amount of cropland more than doubled between 2008 and 2012. 
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Contact Us:

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

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