Freshwater needs you

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Posted January 20, 2010
By Dick Gray

It all started when a gang of five tornadoes passed across the Lake Minnetonka area, west of Minneapolis, on
May 5, 1965. The violent winds and rains sped to the northeast, leveling dozens of houses, tearing trees to bits,
destroying or severely damaging hundreds of boats and docks and flooding a huge swath of land normally dry.
Unbelievable amounts of debris clogged the lake—houses. cars. belongings, dirt, vegetation and even cows
carried by the funnel clouds from farms near Norwood. Deep churning of the waters stirred up bottom sediment
deposited over thousands of years. Contamination of all sorts threatened the healthy state of Lake Minnetonka.
The storms passed, but Lake Minnetonka and its 112-miles of shoreline were left a mess. Clean-up started
immediately, but for weeks window frames, toy trumpets, clothing, checkbooks and other components of life by
the lake were washed ashore.

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Lake Minnetonka was suffering. The drastic
disturbance to its sodimonts by tho storm and
clean-up over a large area altered the biota of the
lake For months and even years. the lake was in a very
unhealthy state. What to do?
In mid-1966. enlisted the help of a friend. Hibbort Hill.
to establish a small freshwater laboratory in the
basement of my house on the western shore of Lake
Minnetonka. Hib was vice president of engineering for
Northern States Power Company and an avid water
researcher. Ho had a similar small water laboratory in
his house on Lotus Lake nearby. We established a plan.
We lived on dissimilar bodies of water in the same
neighborhood, and by comparing weekly water
samples, we could track changes that occurred in the

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Every Sunday morning at exactly 10 a.m.—rain or snow,
cold or hot—wo took our respcctivo boats or walked on
the ice to auger holes in the ice. sampled
near-surface. mid-depths and in the deeps. and
delivered my samples to Hib’s house We used our
same get of instruments, clean and official every time,
to tost tho samples. Tho lake locations of our sampling
were duplicated each time via triangulation, on water
or on ice We discussed any changes that occurred in
samples along with the probable reason or reasons
for the changes.
One morning in February 1968. bundled up. and with
my two golden retrievers. I hauled my sled out onto
the ice, triangulated my position and started drilling
through 20 inches of ice.

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With ico chips flying. madc way into tho ico and broke through to water. T hc weight of tho ico shoot forced water into and up the hole and out onto the ice surface— the ice and snow were suddenly stained a horrible red.and a very musty smell caused the dogs to the hell??


The dogs nosed the mess as took a picture of them—a picture that became quite famous around the country and madc tho front page of tho local Sun Newspaper. With cxtrcmo carc, I took water samples at various depths.checked the oxygen level of each and rushed indoors to my lab to observe under the microscope what the “red” was all about. I saw an astounding sight. a tangled mass of strand-like algae The red color was later identified as that of Oscillatoria rubescens. a sure sign of bad pollution. I rushed the samples over to Hib Hill, he came back with me and we took further samples and both agreed we had a terrible problem on our hands and HAD to do something about it. Wo soarchcd tho litcraturc and questioned scientists around tho country—which took timo
but answered little.


In duly 196B, awoke one morning with the idea to solicit sorne knowledgeable person to answer the many lake problems that were popping up. I approached Hib Hill and Carroll Crawford of the Sun Newspapers about the idea and they supported it. Hib and drovo north to tho Biological Station of tho University of Minnesota at Itasca


State Park (at the head of the Mississippi River) to pass the idea by Dr. Alan Brook from England. new head of Ecology and Behavior Biology at the U of M who was teaching that summer at Itasca. After several hours of discussion, during which Dr. Brook expressed his amazement there was no major
froshwator rosoarch facility in tho United States. tho idca of establishing such a facility grow by tho minute.During the drive back to Minneapolis. Hib and I further developed the idea. and the Freshwater Biological Institute was born. We decided the IJ of M was the prime candidate to be responsible for it.


The first move was for me to approach Dr. Malcolm Moos. president of the U of M. I called his office the next day. and two hours later I was sitting in his office on campus. Ho listoncd intently to mo. madc a fow notes and said I’d hear from the university soon. • Soon” was sooner than had hoped, Three hours after had left Or, Moos, the dean of the College of Biological Sciences. Dr Richard S. Caldecott. was sitting in my office. eager to hear the details of
what we planned. From that day on, Dick Caldecott became an invaluable member of our Freshwater team, a member of our Board of Directors and a close friend for 41 years.


The next major decision was to decide how to approach the many potential donors at all levels of the greater
Twin Cities area regarding the proposed plans for a research facilit’,q We decided to hold an informal master informational program at the Minikahda Club on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on a Sunday afternoon. We needed
a draw.” Arthur Godfrey of radio and TV fame was a prospect. Dick Caldecott and I made a cold call on Mr. Codfrcy in his ofticc in Now York City aftor an aviator friend of his broke tho ico for us.


Mr. Godfrey was most gracious and agreed to fly to Minneapolis to address our party at the Minikahda Club some Sunday afternoorv The party was set for a Sunday in January 1969, and was attended by 250 people. a smash success.


On Dec. 31. 1968. the non-profit “Freshwater Biological Research Foundation” was officially recognized by the State of Minnesota. A Board of Directors was formed (l was chairman) and an office was set up at my company. Zero-Max Industries in south Minneapolis university personnel were most helpful in structuring a plan for the Freshwater Biological Institute, to be given, free and clear, to the university to own and operate on behalf of the pooplo of tho world.


The Freshwater Foundation moved its offices into the new 52.000-square-foot multi-million-dollar Freshwater Biological Institute at Navarre on Lake Minnetonka in 1974. The multi-disciplinary laboratory for research and the
training of doctoral students opened for business in June 1974, early and under budget. On Doc. g, 1976, tho Froshwatcr Foundation officially gavo thc land. building and cquipmcnt to thc U of M with no strings attached, At a later date, the U of M renamed its facility the Cray Freshwater Biological Institute, Later. with the Freshwater Biological Institute up and running. it was decided the non-profit entity that organized the project should be renamed the Freshwater Society.


Special thanks must bo given to lawyer-president Ray Black of Zero-Max Industries, without whom tho Instituto project would not have materialized, The Baker Foundation and Bill Baker of Minneapolis believed in the project
from the start and supplied major seed money for architects and operations. and were instrumental in securing the gift of nearly 50 acres of precious land on Lake Minnetonka from IDS. Bill and his brother Roger were Freshwater Society board members for many years. Thanks also must be given to thousands of donors and helpers. most from tho Twin Cities area. Theirs was a job woll done.

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