top of page

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”

Make a difference: Donate

Yes, I would like to support the

Minnesota River Congress 'Mission'. 


Contact:     Scott Sparlin

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

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:

"Minnesota River partners seek to achieve more naturally-functioning streams in the highly-engineered landscape of the Minnesota River Basin 
See News Release in Gallery  7/20/20 

 Events & Meetings


The 16th Minnesota River Congress will be held at the Kato Ballroom (200 Chestnut St) in Mankato MN on Thursday June 13th starting at 6 PM.  In attendance will be Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, BWSR Ex. Dir. John Jaschke, MNDNR Regional Adm. Scott Roemheldt, Dana Vanderbosch Asst. Comm. MPCA, along with State Senator Nick Frentz, State Rep. Jeff Brand and others.   The public is welcome and invited to attend.  Opportunities for input and future Minnesota River Congress priorities will be voted on.
      16th Minnesota River Congress

                         Agenda 6-13-24

         Kato Ballroom 200 Chestnut St. Mankato, MN

                          Doors open 6:00 PM

6:20 Welcome, introductions, and opening remarks Scott Sparlin, Senator Nick Frentz, Rep. Jeff Brand

6:45 What is the Minnesota River Drainage Collaborative, David Minge, Ted Suss A quick history of Izaak Walton League Upper Mississippi River Initiative connection, how the Collaborative got started and what it has evolved into today.

7:05 Successes Created by MN River Collaborative Actions, Ted Suss, , project modifications, water storage additions, Lyon Co ditch 14, early notification bill, efforts to define and compile true economic/societal costs, other.

Carly Griffith, YM ditch 9, questionable projects abandoned, put on hold or delay, Limbo Creek story, recap associated legislative actions. PW definition bill, tile registration bill, ACE study proposal.

7:30 John Jaschke, Rita Weaver, BWSR Water Storage Program update.

8:00 State Agency representatives panel discussion. Minnesota Department of AG Commissioner Thom Petersen, MNDNR Regional Administrator, Scott Roemhildt, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Assistant Commissioner, Dana Vanderbosch, Board of Water and Soil Resources Ex. Dir. John Jaschke speaking on the willingness to identify collaboration potential and opportunities for funding from multiple sources for water storage projects of their own, as well as joining other state entities in proposals.  Identification of where water storage is a byproduct of a project that was not necessarily specifically designed for that as the primary outcome such as soil health and other.

  8:25 Julie Blackburn, ISG Business Unit Leader, Generating a greater understanding of the challenges to incorporating water quality into projects as well as possibilities for removing potential barriers.    

8:45 actions questionnaire What role can we play in assisting with, advocating for, promoting, marketing, and getting landowners and the general public knowledgeable and interested in the benefits of water storage.  Future Minnesota River Commission consideration.  Fill out input and vote.

9:00 adjourn

The 15th session of the Minnesota River Congress began with a brief history of the network and event.  Event coordinator Scott Sparlin opened with an explanation of when and why the network was formed and how the succession of events led us to our current focus of water storage.  He pointed out that this last legislative session appropriated 17 million dollars for our newly created Water Storage Program which was in part a result of our on-going efforts.  He thanked all parties involved in not only helping to create the program but for the efforts to see it be brought to a scale that will impact the entire river system in a beneficial way.


Former National President of the Izaak Walton League and current team leader for the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) Dave Zentner followed with a description of the role the UMRI is playing in the Minnesota River Watershed.  He recognized the Minnesota River Collaborative and their on-going work with regards to land drainage and more specifically recognized that there are some systemic needs to current drainage policy.  He emphasized the need for regenerative agriculture and the reclamation and enhancement of historical areas where water storage could be accomplished with multiple beneficial results.


Next the Executive Director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) John Jaschke gave a broad overview of the current status of the newly created Water Storage Program.  He stated that it is one of the priorities of BWSR to implement and demonstrate the benefits of the program for all parties involved which includes landowners/producers.  He stated that BWSR is pursuing federal dollars and is applying for significant funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for this purpose.


Rita Weaver, BWSR State Drainage Engineer, Chief Engineer, then provided a more detailed update on the Water Storage Program and its current status.  During the first year of demonstrating the program, BWSR has funded projects that are designed to meet the spirit and intent of the statutory wording of the program.  That being particular to the idea that water coming from any project undertaken has to show a reduction in discharge from previous conditions.  She explained in detail the scoring of proposals for projects.  She said modifications for scoring could be subject to change in the future as the program matures.  She also emphasized that improving marketing and selling skills to landowner/producers was a critical need and that is something the network could assist with developing in the future. 


John Biren, Lyon County SWCD Administrator, gave a regional project update undertaken by the SWCD there which had been an applicant and a recipient of some of the initial funding for demonstrations of the Water Storage Program.  He presented a detailed power point of the steps and challenges that transpired in order to accomplish the project.    He stated that it was worthy of the effort and met the criteria, and that there is more to the project which will hopefully be finalized this next year.


After Mr. Biren’s presentation, the Administrator for the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, Linda Loomis reported on costs associated with keeping the lower 25 miles of the river open for barge traffic.  She also presented all of the various ways the lower portion of the river is affected by land use upstream.  The impacts of drainage were emphasized and data was given showing the changes and the negative impacts that additional drainage has had on the lower Minnesota River Watershed over time.


Next, Len Kremer, Water Resources Engineer, Barr Engineering, gave an overview of some of the significant costs associated with our current system of drainage in the Minnesota River Watershed as well as what it would take monetarily to offset those impacts.  He stated that impacts from nitrate nitrogen delivery to the river itself could be in the range as high as a billion dollars to mitigate.  He presented data that shows how infrastructure damage and damage to personal property and homes are affected and that of agricultural land as well.  His presentation also highlighted negative impacts to recreation and costs associated with the loss of those opportunities.


At this point a panel consisting of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Assistant Commissioner for Water Policy and Agriculture, Dana Vanderbosch, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director, John Jaschke and State Drainage Engineer, Rita Weaver gave their perspectives on the evening and made comments regarding moving forward and took questions from attendees.


After good discussion and commentary attendees were asked to fill out questionnaires there or take them home and return them after further contemplation. The session then adjourned.


The summary of the questionnaire is available to all by contacting






The Minnesota River Congress held its 14th full session on Wednesday June 15th, 2022, at the Kato Ballroom, 200 Chestnut St. Mankato MN.


This marked the first in person full meeting since the pandemic initial outbreak.  The public was invited and welcome to participate.  

A background on past and present actions and activities informing participants as to where things are at right now will open the meeting.  Our co-hosts the Izaak Walton League’s Upper Mississippi River Initiative will be part of the update.


Governor Tim Walz addressed the group electronically. 

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Sarah Strommen, Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director, John Jaschke and Chief Engineer, Rita Weaver as well as Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner, Katrina Kessler will be in attendance to speak regarding the many faces of water storage and what it means to everyone.  Other State agency heads were invited to speak as well.  All public participants were given the opportunity to give direction and input to the Minnesota River Congress Action Board on moving their Water Storage Initiative forward.


Minnesota River Congress participants have been working diligently since the pandemic addressing our priority issue as voted on May 17th, 2018, and again at our last active in person session.  Our Water Storage Initiative support has grown significantly.  Together with our numerous partners, supporters, and elected officials from both parties, we were successful at establishing a program that will address water storage in our Minnesota basin and the Mississippi River Basin downstream from the Metro to the state border.  The program is currently in its demonstration phase and is accepting proposals.  It is currently funded at 1 million dollars each of the next two years.  This is a great first step and establishes the program in statute, however that amount of resources won’t go very far in realistically addressing the scope of the need.


What is needed now is the kind of resources that will establish all forms of water storage throughout the entire watershed.  This will require a much larger commitment from the State of Minnesota along with significant federal support as well.  We plan to continue to advocate for that support and that is where the public can assist in our collective efforts.  There will be opportunity for input regarding moving forward and we need you to help create those paths.   

We have described what we vision that some of the programs major components for consideration should be based on 3 years and 25 meetings worth of input gathered from implementers, landowners and other key professional land management entities and individuals from the greater Minnesota River Basin. 



City of Henderson (signed endorsement)

City of Granite Falls (signed resolution)

City of Eden Prairie (signed resolution)

City of Arlington (signed endorsement)

City of Amboy (signed resolution)

City of New Ulm (signed resolution)

City of Olivia (signed endorsement)

City of Mankato (signed resolution)

City of Nicollet (signed endorsement and resolution)

City of Redwood Falls (signed resolution)

City of Springfield (signed resolution and endorsement)

City of Winthrop (signed resolution and endorsement)

City of St. Peter (signed endorsement)

City of LeSueur 

Lower Minnesota River Watershed District (resolution passed and signed)

Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (resolution passed)

Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (endorsement and resolution)

Brown County SWCD (signed endorsement)

Blue Earth County SWCD (signed endorsement)

Martin County SWCD (signed endorsement)

Faribault County SWCD (signed resolution)

Cottonwood County SWCD (signed endorsement)

McCloud County SWCD (verbal will endorse)

Nicollet Conservation Club (endorsement)

MASWCD (relative resolution)

Friends of Pool 2 (signed endorsement)

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (signed endorsement)

Crystal Waters Project (signed endorsement)

Minnesota River Congress (signed endorsement)

New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen (signed endorsement)

Rural Advantage  (signed endorsement)

The Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (signed endorsement and resolution)

Redwood Country Farmers Union (resolution) (State Pending)

Friends of the Minnesota Valley (signed endorsement)

Izaak Walton League MN Valley Chapter (signed resolution)

Izaak Walton League MN Gopher State Chapter (signed resolution)

Clean Up the River Environment-CURE (signed endorsement)

Area 6 SWCD (11 Counties) (in principle)

Area 5 SWCD (10 Counties) (in principle)

Anglers for Habitat (signed endorsement)

Minnesota Conservation Federation (signed endorsement)

Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance (signed endorsement)

The Blue Earth Project (signed endorsement)

Save The Kasota Prairie (signed endorsement)

                                   Next Steps
We have met with federal level Minnesota legislators staff to seek support and matching dollars. We will be seeking private foundation funding for water storage as well. We will also investigate the potential for Legacy Amendment support. We are continuing to raise awareness with the public about this issue and garner additional exposure in major and small media markets of all type.


 Ways You Can Help

Endorsement Letter - We are reaching out to organizations who already participate in the Minnesota River Congress to get endorsement letters or resolutions from both groups and individuals.  Groups which are initially being targeted include but are not limited to, main stem and tributary cities and counties, conservation organizations, sportsmen and women’s organizations, farm organizations as well as commodity-related groups.  We have already secured substantial support as listed.  For your convenience we have created a template endorsement letter that can be edited to fit whatever entity or individual is offering endorsement.   Additionally, we have created a template resolution which can accompany endorsement letters.


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 $500 to $1000 from potential organizational supporters, 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, in that instance consider sending us what you can, no dollar amount is too small.  Individuals should consider any level of donation.  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), CCMR is 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 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.  The list of endorsements and resolutions are growing daily, together we will succeed.


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

bottom of page