Citizen Partnership Creates Impacts

It will be a year ago next month that representatives from eight citizen-led groups got together to discuss the potential for collective action. Gleason Lake, Mooney Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Christmas Lake, Lake Wassermann, Minnehaha Creek, Lake Minnewashta and Pierson Lake held a series of meetings last spring and early summer to determine what they had in common and how they might work together toward common goals in water protection. Soon thereafter the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters (CMCW) was born.

The effort was facilitated by Alex Gehrig of the Freshwater Society who manages the Watershed Association Initiative (WAI) on behalf of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. The WAI works to engage area citizens and provide them with the resources they need to organize and take action on behalf of the district’s water resources. In fact, a number of the groups that helped form the Coalition originally organized with help from the WAI.

The newly formed CMCW decided to focus on aquatic invasive species and stormwater runoff as their two priority areas for action. The group quickly agreed upon a framework for AIS prevention that they felt addressed the issue and began talking with local partners about how to partner. While the full implementation of their priorities has yet to be realized they have succeeded in getting the ear of important partners at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Carver County, who have both agreed to increase the resources they dedicate to the issue.

More recently the group gathered to define priorities for taking action on stormwater runoff issues. Each representative talked about the issues most relevant to their group and topics ranged from agricultural runoff to the need to identify stormwater pipes that lead to the water. First steps now are to engage with local government including the watershed district and municipal partners to identify important areas for action.

The Freshwater Society believes that engaging and empowering citizen leaders is a critical component to dealing with the myriad challenges that our state’s water resources face. Through creative programming we have dedicated much our efforts to providing those leaders with the training, resources and connections they need to take action – and we are always looking for potential partners to work with. Whether it is in a densely populated urban landscape or in the quiet rural setting of Minnesota’s agricultural production, citizen leaders have the passion and local knowledge to good things for water.

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