The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters

December 6, 2011

Special report preview and podcast: From Amber Waves to Muddy Waters

The environmental threat of the Minnesota River

Here is a preview of an upcoming five-part series on the environmental threat of the Minnesota River

Series can be downloaded by signing onto our replica e-edition of The Free Press.

To hear the Podcast between Free Press Editor Joe Spear and reporter Tim Krohn, click the audio file at the right.


Day 1: Sunday, Dec. 4- Overview: When a river is the threat

In-depth research shows the continued degradation of the Minnesota River and its growing environmental impact on other watersheds.

The issue is creating growing friction between farmers and environmentalists and residents on Lake Pepin who are suffering from the Minnesota River’s pollution.

Scientists point to agriculture as the main culprit, while farmers challenge that assertion with their own research.

Story:  Water runs from fields to rivers with some help: modern day tiling

No one knows how many miles of the plastic and concrete tile exist on farm fields across the Minnesota River watershed, which stretches through 10 million acres of land, 20 percent of the state total.

There’s no real regulation for tiling, and only a few counties keep any records.

Yet, tiling can be done quickly and cheaply and reaps great rewards in terms of crop yields.

Story: Forensic agriculture

Call it “CSI Minnesota River.”

They’re not crime fighters, but top researchers.

Their job is to look for the sources of sediment that annually flows into the Minnesota River and then into the Mississippi. How much comes from the millions of acres of farm land in the watershed and how much from streambanks and ravines?

In the recent past, quantifying where sediment was coming from was very difficult, if not impossible.

But not anymore.


Day 2, Monday, Dec. 5

The muddy Minnesota impacting Lake Pepin

Mike McKay pored through research on the Minnesota River and upper Mississippi and was amazed at the large scope of scientific research that has been done.

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Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters