MANKATO — The Minnesota River watershed could become one of the first in the nation to be designated a National Blueways System under an new program aimed at focusing federal, state and private resources on entire river systems without additional regulation.
“I think it would be great. It’s always good to be one of the first,” said Patrick Moore, head of Clean Up the River Environment, based in Montevideo.
“To me it’s like being on the National Register of Historic Places — it might not mean a lot of money directly, but it gives you legitimacy when you’re asking others for money.”
Cathi Fouchi, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regional planner based in New Ulm, said the designation would be a big boost in giving the river national recognition.
“They’re looking at rivers important regionally or nationally that need some help. Rivers where some work has been done but maybe need a boost,” Fouchi said.
Scott Sparlin, a New Ulm conservationist involved with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley, said the potential designation is confirmation of work that’s been done.
“It’s like a reward for the past 23 years that we’ve been banging away at this. A national recognition like that will bring a lot of resources to the Minnesota River for the next five years,” said Sparlin, referring to the five-year length of the designation.
“You’re going to have attention from Fish & Wildlife and a lot of other federal agencies.”
Rebecca Wodder, senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, concludes a two-day tour of the Minnesota River Valley today. Wodder, a longtime environmental advocate and former director of American Rivers, is meeting with various groups along the river and answering questions about the process.
Designated rivers will be given priority for conservation and restoration programs the Interior Department administers, such as funding for fisheries restoration or water conservation.