A Lifetime Protecting Lake Pepin: Dave Smith Member Profile

For generations, people have been sounding the alarm about Lake Pepin’s sedimentation. The alarm has been ringing for so long that a new concern is whether or not we are still hearing it. For too many, it is easy to shrug one’s shoulders at the muddy Minnesota River as it discolors the Mississippi River just upstream of Lake Pepin. “It’s been like that my entire life,” we’ve heard old-time river users say. But the fact is— time doesn’t make it right. If anything, it simply means that change is long overdue.

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(AUDIO) Waiting on the Wind: Time, Memory and a River Journey on Lake Pepin

by John van Vliet

In the morning, as I point my sailboat’s slender bow out past the breakwater at the Lake City Marina, the old diesel engine putt-putt-putting below my feet, there is no wind. Ampersand, my vintage 38-foot sloop, wrinkles her own reflection across the flat-calm steel-gray surface of the broad Lake Pepin. Six miles to the east, I can make out the rooftops of the town of Pepin; to the north, the tiny village of Stockholm lies nestled in a shadowed fold of the high limestone bluffs. The calm of mornings like this belies the wind at noon.

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Degrading soil: why we're missing the mark with clean water

By: Scott Haase, Blue Dirt Farm

I've been seeing it most of my life.  The river, which I've made my home along, wildly fluctuating in terms of its flow.  It can be nearly dried up and then a week or two later it's rushing and flooding over its banks.  Too often the river becomes a torrent of muddy brown water, forcefully making it's way from Northern Iowa all the way to Mankato where it joins with the Minnesota River.  That water passing by my backyard carries soil, fertilizer, and other more nefarious manmade chemicals as it moves toward St. Paul before turning South to Lake Pepin and making its long journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Lake Pepin Habitat Restoration: Why do it like that?

There has been a flurry of news around Lake Pepin restoration recently—and for good reason. The Lessard-Sam’s Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) recently recommended Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance’s (LPLA) proposal of $750,000 for Lake Pepin habitat restoration to the Minnesota legislature. Soon after, we learned that Lake Pepin was selected for a federal pilot program (Section 1122) to bolster and expand restoration efforts already underway.

LPLA has been receiving the same common sense questions about restoration from the public. Hopefully, we can provide some valuable insight into:

1. Why do a restoration project in Upper Lake Pepin when the underlying problem is upstream sediment loads?

2. Why haul sediment from Lower Lake Pepin when there is excess sediment already in Upper Lake Pepin?

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Attracted to the River & Its Guardians

By Bill Mavity, LPLA Member & Council of Champions

“Independent people who think for themselves and are competent to do it because they are enlightened, they read and are abreast of the best and newest thought.” That was Mark Twain’s characterization of the people he encountered in his travels as a steamboat pilot along the upper Mississippi River including Lake Pepin in 1882 that he described in “Life on the Mississippi River” in 1883.

Mark Twain’s influence, bringing me to respect, understand and love the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin began in 1954. My social studies teacher at my high school had the class read and discuss “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Those stories fascinated me and filled me with envy, particularly at the exploits of Huckleberry Finn floating down the River.

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Sustainable Agriculture is Key to Water Quality

By: Claire Hinther, St. Olaf ‘19

I entered my research with the assumption that farmers would be very politically and ideologically divided when it came to questions of water quality. To some extent this is true, but in conversations with rural folks I have found that regard for the land, water resources, and human and animal inhabitants is generally high across the board. Although not all farmers actively protect water through their farming practices, it is worth noting that many are very open to stewardship as a concept. This openness is a perfect place to begin discussions about actively serving the land through sustainable farming practices and water quality protection.

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Protecting Saturated Buffers from Root Penetration

By: Claire Hinther, St. Olaf ‘19

In my first blog of the summer, I discussed an investigation vegetative roots penetrating and blocking the sub-surface distribution line in saturated buffers. As part of that work, we will plant an MDA-developed seed mix over the distribution line on the saturated buffer this fall. Our goal is to determine the point at which roots in the distribution line impact saturated buffer performance.

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Bridging Troubled Waters: Maris Gilbert Member Profile

By: Mac Becco

Maris Gilbert loves water—and she always has. As a Florida native, she grew up with water in every direction. When she moved to Minnesota for art school and discovered Lake Pepin, she felt like she’d found a mini-ocean in the heart of the Midwest. She spent as much time at Lake Pepin as she could. The lake became a place she could relax, as well as a source of inspiration for her art.

But when Maris learned about the serious threats to Lake Pepin, everything changed. She felt it was unfair, even wrong, to stand by and do nothing while the lake that brought her so much joy and artistic inspiration was in peril. So, she decided to create art that would highlight threats to Lake Pepin and, hopefully, inspire others to take action.

Today she works as a therapist, environmental activist, and artist who is on a mission to inspire greater love for local waters.  

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Saturated Buffers: They work!

By: Claire Hinther, St. Olaf ‘19

Nitrates create water quality concerns for human and ecosystem health. High nitrate levels in drinking water are linked to diseases such as methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, which reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. High nitrate in surface water contributes to eutrophication and the creation of large hypoxic zones. The lack of oxygen in these areas impacts the survival of both freshwater and marine species and leads to harmful algae blooms.

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Saturated Buffers: Not Your Average Vegetation Strip

By: Claire Hinther, St. Olaf ‘19

Last summer, I began researching nitrogen abatement from saturated buffers on David Legvold’s farm in Northfield, MN. Dave is widely recognized as an advocate for sustainable farming practices and water quality awareness. He has been no-till farming for over twenty years and partners with researchers on projects that analyze pollution mitigation.

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Restoration for Sustainable Communities: Michael Anderson Member Profile

By: Mac Becco, LPLA Communications Director

Annual spring floods turn floodplain forests around Lake Pepin into a dreamscape. Right off busy Highway 61, you can plop a boat in the water and, with a few strokes of the paddle, escape into a spectacular soiree hosted by the natural world. The wind plays percussion on the trees, birds sing to attract mates, and camouflaged (thereby unidentifiable) creatures make quiet splashes into the water. The sun glistens like a disco ball and fallen trees decorate the space with wooded arches reflected in glasslike water. This ongoing eco-festival is Michael Anderson’s second home, main office, and personal sanctuary.

Michael is the purveyor of nature trips with Broken Paddle Guiding Company (BPG), an eco-tourism business he started in Wabasha, MN. Most BPG paddle trips weave through the forested flood plains just south of Lake Pepin where water is clear, vegetation is healthy, and wildlife is thriving. Periodically, however, BPG will lead trips through the backwaters of Upper Lake Pepin, which are beautiful, but less ecologically vibrant due to sediment accumulation and resuspension. The contrast between the two areas is striking, which is one reason Michael joined restoration efforts.

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A Boater's Vision for Lake Pepin: Zach Paider Member Profile

By: Mac Becco, LPLA Communications Director

Lake Pepin summers are a memory-making machine with an assembly line of beautiful vistas, diverse recreation, abundant entertainment, and small-town charm. The emotional memories it forms span generations and unites communities. Nobody understands this better than Zach Paider, General Manager of Bill's Bay Marina, who has become a passionate advocate for restoring Lake Pepin. Over the last year, Zach has been promoting a vision of restoration that supports recreational boaters, local economies, and the natural environment. In doing so, he hopes Lake Pepin can continue to cultivate beautiful memories well into the future.

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Growing Stronger Every Year: 2017 Annual Review

By Mackenzie Consoer

Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (LPLA) has gone back to its roots with a focus on local restoration, community education, and grassroots organizing. The Minnesota River Basin might contribute 90% of the sediment filling Lake Pepin, but downstream stakeholders are the guardians of this natural treasure. LPLA is here to amplify the local voice and advocate for a healthier Lake Pepin for years to come. Over the last year, LPLA has continued to advocate for upstream mitigation and downstream restoration, two activities that need to occur simultaneously. Check out what our growing organization has achieved with your support this year!

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Commercial Fishing & Small-Town Charm in Bay City, WI: The Dosdall Member Profile

By: Mac Becco, LPLA Communications Director

Frank and Cathy Dosdall are your local memory keepers. They have troves of historical stories and memorabilia that illustrate the economic, social, and environmental changes Lake Pepin has experienced over the last century. Proudly hailing from Bay City, WI, they have witnessed their hometown transition from a popular Lake Pepin destination to a quiet village becoming increasingly isolated from Lake Pepin. It’s no coincidence that Bay City also happens to be the community most impacted by the devastating sedimentation in Upper Lake Pepin. Its history is prophetic for other communities around Lake Pepin and highlights why the Dosdalls are critical players in restoring Lake Pepin.

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