The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 14, 2012

Minnesota River to get federal attention with new "Blueways" program



Blueways are part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, an attempt by the Obama administration to set up “a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century.”

Earlier this year, Salazar designated the first Blueways — the 410-mile-long Connecticut River that flows through Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Minnesota and a few other rivers in the nation are beginning the nomination process to gain designation.

The prospects for the future of the Blueways program was in doubt prior to the election as there were questions whether it would continue to exist under a Romney administration.

The DNR’s Fouchi said there is funding for the program included in the 2014 Interior Department budget.

The nomination for designation must come form a nonprofit group rather than a government agency, Fouchi said. While the DNR and other state and federal agencies are helping in gathering data for the nomination, the nomination is being applied for by the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance.

The alliance, created by Moore and others, is a loose-knit organization open to anyone with a stake in the river. The goal of the group is to build relationships between government agencies, environmentalists, farmers, local officials and others.

“The Watershed Alliance is re-energized,” Moore said. “It’s an organization that knows how to make decisions by consensus. There’s interaction between agencies and citizens — there’s been a void in that before.”

The group is working with a federal liaison — Charlie Blair of the Fish and Wildlife office in Bloomington — as it puts the nomination together.

“The nomination process is quite rigorous,” Moore said. “There’s been federal state, local, nonprofit and citizens groups uniting to work on the nomination process, which is good.”

The  hope is to get the nomination information complete this year with a possible designation coming next spring.

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