Aug. 28, 2006
A closer look at the Crow River
By Jenni Sebora
Erosion from agricultural lands, effects of rapid urban growth, new and expanding wastewater facilities and their effects on the Crow River basin have been common concerns of many citizens and governments in central Minnesota.
Thus, the Crow River Organization of Waters - CROW was formed.
In 1998, many different groups began meeting to discuss management of the Crow River basin, consisting of the north fork and south fork, according to the web site, www.crowriver.org.
The Crow River has three forks, the north, middle, and south. The north and south forks converge at Rockford to form the Crow River, which flows for about 30 miles northeastward.
The Crow River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, flowing into the Mississippi near Dayton, Minn.
As a result, this peaked interest in the Crow River, to coordinate clean up of the whole river, the CROW was formed in 1999, CROW Joint Powers board of director member Ray Bayerl noted.
Portions of 10 counties in central Minnesota make up the Crow River watershed. These counties include Carver, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Renville, Sibley, Stearns, and Wright. A joint powers agreement has been signed between all 10 of these counties. A watershed district for the middle fork area became official in 2005.
The CROW Joint Powers Board consists of one representative from each of the county boards in the watershed, including, Tim Lynch of Carver County, Jack Russek from Wright County, and Bayerl from McLeod County. This board meets monthly.
Since its formation, the CROW has been working closely with local, state, and federal agencies involved in water quality and quantity issues.
Most recently, the CROW’s “Working Together to Improve Water Quality” grant was approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for pollution control of the Crow River.
The Crow River Organization of Water promotes and hosts a variety of activities aimed at keeping the Crow River clean. E-Currents, the CROW’s electronic newsletter, was started as a means to keep everyone up-to-date on the latest news from around the watershed.
The organization also publishes its regular Currents newsletter and a Citizen Stream Monitoring Report, which is one of CROW’s outreach programs.
Involvement in the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program (CSMP) is open to any individual or group willing to donate time to conduct a simple weekly stream assessment, according to the web site.
The data collected by the volunteers indicates improvement or degradations in the river system, increases the public’s awareness of water quality issues, and assists local planners in prioritizing areas for research and projects, the web site noted.
Other CROW outreach programs that volunteers can become involved in, include river clean-up, in which volunteers walk the banks of the Crow River picking up garbage; Riverwatch, a data collection program that uses aquatic “bugs” to provide information about the quality of water in a stream or river; and storm drain marking, which the web site noted is a great program for 4-H groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, or other community groups.
Last September, more than 300 volunteers from about 12 communities walked the banks of the Crow River picking up garbage along a designated stretch of the river, on the second annual “Clean Up the Crow River” day. After the annual clean-up, participants stay for a lunch and receive a free appreciation T-shirt.
The 2004 “Clean Up the Crow River” day resulted in the collection of over nine tons of garbage.
In the Riverwatch program, students and adults are taught to collect and identify insects and other invertebrates from local rivers and streams, which are indicators of water quality.
In all of these outreach programs, including Riverwatch, the CROW will train the volunteers. The organization will also loan monitoring equipment to schools and assist with invertebrate monitoring.
Storm drain marking, or stenciling, is also an educational activity that explains the role of storm drains, reminding people to help keep the drains free of debris, chemicals, and other waste.
The CROW has storm drain markers and stencils available for use by individuals or groups. The volunteers paint or adhere a decal bearing the statement, “No Dumping: Drains to River” on storm drains in their community.