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How Would You Solve Water Quality Challenges Along the North Shore?

Photo: Woman and child sitting on beach looking at Lake Superior

In the spirit of reaching Gov. Mark Dayton's goal of improving water quality in Minnesota by 25 percent in the next eight years, three of the University of Minnesota Duluth's top water researchers are organizing a Facebook Live event on October 2, 2017, from noon to 1 p.m. During that time, Lucinda Johnson, associate director of the Natural Resources Research Institute, John A. Downing, director of Minnesota Sea Grant, and Robert (Bob) Sterner, director of the Large Lakes Observatory, are looking forward to lively exchanges with each other and with online participants. People with a Facebook account can join the free interactive conversation. Anyone with internet access can view the hour-long event live through Minnesota Sea Grant's Facebook page (@MNSeaGrant) and afterwards through Minnesota Sea Grant's website.

The conversation will focus on three questions:

  1. What goals would protect and improve water quality by 25 percent in the Lake Superior, North Shore, St. Louis River, Duluth-Superior Harbor region?
  2. What actions are needed to protect and improve water quality in this region?
  3. What would it take to accelerate pace of progress toward protecting and improving water quality in this region?

"We expect to narrow down the top ideas for achieving better water quality at a faster pace along Minnesota's coast," said Downing. "Facebook Live promises to be an effective way to do this with input from a variety of people along the entire length of Minnesota's North Shore. We're really hoping for a great turnout to our first-ever Facebook Live event."

Potential topics for discussion include adaptable water protection regulations, state funding for municipal sewage plants and additional public education on maintaining septic systems. According to state and UMD experts, regional water quality challenges stem from airborne pollutants from half a world away to land use choices as close to home as roadside ditches and backyards. "The results of the online town hall will be submitted to the governor to help determine regional goals and actionable steps to improve Minnesota's water quality. Some of Minnesota's best waters are right here along the North Shore and it's important to keep them in the statewide conversation," said Johnson.

Johnson's expertise and research focus on streams, particularly those that run into Lake Superior. Meanwhile, Sterner has studied Lake Superior for two decades. "My colleagues and I have documented changes in Lake Superior's chemistry, physical properties and biology that are fascinating," said Sterner. "What we're finding suggests that we shouldn't count on the status quo. I'm looking forward to sharing what I've come to understand and hearing what other changes people have noticed in the water of this region."

In addition to organizing ten town halls in different regions of the state, the governor's office and the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board encouraged the UMD researchers to host the upcoming virtual meeting. "Clearly Minnesotans are passionate about water," said Johnson, noting the attendance at the governor's town halls, particularly the one in Ely, Minnesota, which attracted over 200 people. "My colleagues and I are, too, that's why we're doing this."

Ideas for improving water quality in the state can also be shared with Gov. Dayton on Facebook and Twitter (#25by25MN) or through the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board's website. The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board expects to present the results to the public this winter. Visit the 25 by 25 website to sign up for updates.

The upcoming online town hall is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant College Program, and UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute and Large Lakes Observatory.

Photo: From left: John A. Downing, Lucinda Johnson, Robert (Bob) Sterner

From left: John A. Downing, director, University of Minnesota Sea Grant College Program; Lucinda Johnson, associate director, University of Minnesota Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute; Robert (Bob) Sterner, director, University of Minnesota Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory

Posted on September 21, 2017

This page last modified on September 21, 2017     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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