The Minnesota River Congress is a citizen-led group focusing on the natural resource and economic health of the Minnesota River Basin.

Mission: “To promote citizen participation from all communities of interest and take cooperative action to protect, conserve and improve the Minnesota River System”

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Minnesota River Congress 'Mission'. 


Contact:     Scott Sparlin

The McKnight Foundation has been a primary funder of the Minnesota River Congress. Thank you for your past support.  For other support click on "Participating Entities and Organizations"  on top of page

The Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River serves as fiscal host for the Minnesota River Congress:

Upcoming Events & Meetings

Nov 14, 2019

Please Sign the Petition

Water Storage Inititaitve Petition

Oct 08, 2019

Water Storage Initiative

Water Storage Legislation

Initial Process and Sequence for Seeking Support


Dear Potential Partner, Cooperator, Supporter:                                             


Water Storage Bill
The Minnesota River Congress is spearheading an initiative to secure significant funding by requesting a bill in the state legislature that would create a realistically adequate pool of money targeted specifically for surface water storage.  This is a voluntary initiative.


The funding will target the Minnesota River Basin and potentially other Minnesota basins where applicable.  Funds will be directed for implementation to Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Watershed Districts, and landowners.  We plan to utilize successful processes and messaging previously used to secure the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) #1.  That initiative was successful due to significant public and organizational support back in the late 1990s.  One different tactic we are using this time is to seek committed funds for the initiative at the state level prior to approaching the applicable federal entities.   


We are describing what we envision the program or initiative could look like and how it might work and are seeking additional input how to refine and improve the way we have it laid out (See first draft of bill).


Scientific Background
Extensive scientific data collected over decades shows clearly that we need to put more water storage on the landscape.  Additional water storage can protect infrastructure and improve water quality.  Diverse water storage practices, such as replacing historically drained lakes and wetlands and increasing soil health, will all help to achieve this goal. The climatic trend and future prediction of increased rainfalls in short periods of time will only exacerbate the issue. 


We are using the Collaborative for Sediment Source Reduction (CSSR) and Management Options Simulation Model (MOSM) study recommendations in conjunction with the rich datasets available through state agency monitoring, assessment and conservation targeting (WRAPS, TMDLS, 1W1P) to support the case for the need for more water storage. We will enlist researchers at state agencies and elsewhere who have completed studies to help provide data and documentation (e.g. Patrick Belmont, Karen Gran, Chris Lenhart, Peter Wilcock and numerous others).


Obtaining Local Feedback and Support
We have obtained feedback and support from Area 6 and Area 5 SWCD Supervisors and staff. Area 6 members (11 SWCDs in the middle part of the Minnesota River Basin) have discussed this issue during three meetings and are supportive in principle.  We also have communicated with Area 5 and will be going through some of the same endorsement process.  In these meetings, we have emphasized that surface water storage has come to the forefront in all our related meetings and discussions with other groups including those in the agricultural community.  Bearing this in mind, we have used and will be using the following to communicate the initiative.   “In the interest of not wanting to waste your time, are you comfortable with, and agree that this is a program you would look forward to implementing?  And do you feel that it is a public natural resource priority?”  So far it has been a resounding yes from those various implementers.  We are scheduling meetings with the other affected SWCD district areas and key individuals as well.  Watershed District support on a regional and state-wide basis is also a part of this process and we have already received endorsement and support from the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District and the State MASWCD has passed a resolution introduced by the Yellow Medicine SWCD making Water Storage a top priority.


Legislative Progress
We have met in person and secured legislative authors to work with us in the State House and Senate.  We are soliciting other House and Senate members to gain insight and input during the creation of the legislation.  We will seek sign-on from members who support funding for water storage.  Once the bill is in its first draft form, we will introduce the initiative to the Governor and ask for his endorsement, support and help in raising public awareness.  After the bill is in its final form, we will shepherd it through the process to final approval.   


Next Steps
We will be meeting with federal level Minnesota legislators to seek federal support and matching dollars. We will seek private foundation funding for water storage. We will investigate the potential for Legacy Amendment support. We need to raise awareness with the general public about this issue now by supporting additional exposure in major and small media markets. 


Ways You Can Help
Provide Feedback – We want to hear from you to help us shape the bill.

Endorsement Letter - We are reaching out to organizations who already participate in the Minnesota River Congress to get support letters or resolutions (either with groups or individually).  Groups initially targeted include but are not limited to the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance, Clean Up the River Environment , Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River, Land Stewardship Partnership, Sustainable Farming Association, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, as well as farm organizations and commodity-related groups. We have created a template endorsement letter that can be edited to fit whatever entity would be offering its endorsement.  We will also seek endorsement letters from other area SWCDs, Watershed Districts, and all other water-related entities able to do so. Additionally, we will be creating a template resolution which can be plugged into current letters of endorsement.


Provide Funds - We need matching funds.  We currently have matching support from several organizations and are reaching out to you for help in any way you can.  If we can secure $1,000 from each identified potential supporter, we can obtain all the matching funds available to us.  We know full well that many are not able to support us at that level.  Please send us what you can. Every dollar is critical, and we will carefully utilize your commitment no matter the size. 


Our fiscal agent for this initiative is the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR), a basin-wide 501c3 federal tax-exempt organization.  Donations should be directed to CCMR at P.O. Box 488, New Ulm, MN 56073.  Donations can also be made electronically at   or contact the Coordinator/Facilitator at


We are extremely passionate about this issue and will not be discouraged in our efforts. Hundreds of individuals representing over 60 entities have participated in The Minnesota River Congress sessions to date. 


For More Information
Contact Scott Sparlin, Coordinator/Facilitator, Minnesota River Congress   (507 276 2280)

FIRST DRAFT Water Storage Program/Initiative very preliminary description

A one-time purchase from willing landowners of a permanent easement on land that has been identified as historically water covered by a concurred upon date (such as the 1895 land survey or later), as well as existing MNDNR maps including LIDAR etc.  Rates for payment should reflect land values of the surrounding area and cropping history.  A maximum payment limit should be established.  Referencing other similar bills for additional requirements and components can and should be done for detailed legal descriptions.  Much of this can be done at the legislative level during the bill creation process.  Inclusion of components and incentives suggested by SWCDs and Watershed Districts is a critical part of the initial bill makeup. It should have an acreage or percentage goal which will most likely be linked to the amount of money the bill would have in it.


There could also be an option of revising current program legislation to fit the storage priority.


Some features could include, but are not limited to:

  • Priority could be given to areas with ability to store larger volumes of water.

  • Allowing the use of a shallow lake/wetland and surrounding buffer which has been created to be leased for hunting by the landowner.

  • If open to the public for hunting etc. additional payment for land could be offered.

  • Allowing some areas to be farmed in dry years.

  • Priority could also be given to areas within road right of ways.

  • Identification of areas that will be able to detain a significant amount of water and consequently be drained completely then able to receive a full capacity in a subsequent rain event (connected drainable dry basin)

  • Followup management requirements.

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