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

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 

Upcoming Events & Meetings

Water Storage Initiative Update 5-20-20

Minnesota River Congress participants,

Now that the legislature is in a special session which began July 13th, I thought I would update you on our Water Storage Initiative efforts.  We began early last year arranging one on one meetings with two representatives willing to work with us.  Representatives Jeff Brand (19A ) and Paul Torkelson (16B).  Each authored a bill in the House with different components and guidelines based on input given by us from the last 2 years of collecting key elements needed for success.  At the same time, I reached out to amass support from as many potential entities and individuals as possible.  Consequently, we received support from SWCD’s, Watershed Districts, Cities as well as from our extensive network of groups and organizations who have in the past participated in our Minnesota River Congresses.  The success of that effort has grown impressively and has significantly bolstered our efforts to get legislation that will establish a water storage targeted program.  The version introduced by Rep. Torkelson was passed out of committee but did not make it into the omnibus natural resources bill which was passed in the house.  However, the companion bill authored by Senators Bill Weber (22) and Nick Frenz (19) in the Senate was included in the omnibus natural resources bill and did pass.  While an agreement was not reached on the final omnibus natural resources bill for both houses there is still a chance that it could be agreed upon in special session.  Representative Torkelson is working on language changes and passage.  I will update you at the end of this special session, we are making progress.  

Jul 20, 2020

In Person Full Action Board Meetings

Next Full Action Board Meeting

In person Action Board meetings have been cancelled until further notice due to the Corona virus.  Our next full Action Board meeting and Full Minnesota River Congress sessions are now postponed to a later date yet to be determined.

Nov 14, 2019

Please Sign the Petition

Water Storage Inititaitve Petition

Mar 25, 2020

Water Storage Initiative

Water Storage Legislation

Seeking Support, Process and Sequence


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 Minnesota state legislature that would create a realistically adequate pool of money targeted specifically for water storage in all forms of the state accepted definition of the term.  This is a voluntary initiative.


The funding will target the Minnesota River Basin as well as 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 available funding and public and organizational support back in the late 1990s.  One different approach 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 the program major components are based on 3 years of input gathered from implementers, landowners and other key professional land management entities and individuals.  We are laying out how it might work and have and are always seeking additional input on how to refine or improve its current form.


Scientific Background
Extensive scientific data collected over decades shows clearly that we need to have more water storage capabilities on the landscape.  Additional water storage will 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
Water Storage Initiative signed secured endorsements/resolutions and cooperators list as of 3-18-20


Lower Minnesota River Watershed District (resolution passed and signed)

Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (resolution passed)

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)

Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (endorsement and resolution)

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

City of Henderson (signed endorsement)

City of Granite Falls (signed endorsement and 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 Redwwood Falls (signed 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 State Chapter (signed resolution)

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)


Legislative Progress and Current Status
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 are seeking additional sign-on from members who support funding for water storage.  Two versions of the bill have been introduced in the Minnesota House H.F. 4398 and H.F. 3595.  A companion bill in the Senate authored by Senators Bill Weber and Nick Frenz  S.F. 3864 has been included in the Natural Resources Omnibus Bill which has passed.  We will also be meeting with the Governor to ask for his endorsement, support and help in raising public awareness.  With the bill is in its final form, we will continue to shepherd this legislation through the process to final approval.   


Next Steps
We plan to meet with federal level Minnesota legislators to seek support and matching dollars. We will seek private foundation funding for water storage as well. We will investigate the potential for Legacy Amendment support. We are continuing to raise awareness with the general 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 created a template endorsement letter that can be edited to fit whatever entity or individual who would be offering its endorsement.  We have already received endorsement letters from area SWCDs, the Minnesota Assn. of Watershed Districts, and will be reaching out to all other water-related entities able to do so as we move forward.  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 send 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), 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)



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.  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 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.

  • Inclusion of incentivizing soil health best management practices

  • 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)

  • Follow up management requirements.

Please reload

Minnesota Confluence2