Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Welcome, first time visitors, to

Tonight, our project was featured in the KARE 11 News Extra, known as Earth KARE. My name is Mike, and I’m the guy you saw picking junk out of the river from a little 10’ kayak. I’m really glad you stopped by, because there are a couple of things I’d like to reiterate from tonight’s story.

First, let me share a few thoughts about how to navigate this site. Start by realizing it is a blog, more than a web site. Thus, you’re reading the most recent postings first. As you read each progressive posting, you’re going back in time, through the chronology of events that have brought us to today. For your convenience, see the “Important Pages” on the navigation bar to your right. They'll take you to the specific topic you may be looking for. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email… and I’ll do my best to either provide you with the answer, or suggest where you might find it.

Next: Know that river cleanup can be a tricky task. I implore you to NEVER work on or near the river alone… always work with a friend. Plus, note that the water is still pretty high due to our late winter thaw and heavy spring rains in northern Minnesota. So hold back for a couple of weeks before you get started, for safety’s sake. In fact, I’d watch this USGS web site, and wait for the water level to be under the 3 to 3.5’ point, per the USGS water gage on the Mississippi at the Anoka measuring site. For more safety guidelines, visit the Minnesota DNR’s Adopt-a-River web site… and follow their safety tips, written based on their years of experience and wisdom. IMPORTANT: Anyone who engages in river clean-up does so at their own risk. Be careful. Know your limits. And work with friends.

We hope you enjoy exploring Don’t worry about getting too deep into the technology and complexity of how we’re attacking river restoration. Remember that anyone with a pair of gloves, a few garbage bags and an old pair of tennis shoes is equipped enough to help clean a shoreline. And if you want to clean up the environment, don’t just pick-up a lottery ticket the next time you stop at a convenience store… pick up a drink cup or beverage bottle you see laying in the parking lot. Just that one gesture will keep a lot of trash from washing down the storm sewers, and eventually into the river. We have a motto: Anyone, on any given day, has the power to improve a place.

Friends and Support. It has been a gratifying day for my wife and I. Friends who have seen the promotional announcements about our project on KARE 11 have been calling throughout the day. And one of those friends (thanks, Todd) introduced our project to a couple of gentlemen by the name of Jim and Joe Rauscher. Jim and Joe are the owners of Joe’s Sporting Goods, a third-generation family sporting goods store. Joe gave me a call this evening, saying, “We love what you’re doing, we thank you for your effort, and we’d like to help provide you with some new tools.” With that, Joe offered to provide us with a new kayak.

This contribution to the cause is greatly appreciated, but it is not terribly surprising. The product line at Joe’s Sporting Goods covers the gambit of outdoor sports… and they’ve been close to Minnesota’s outdoors for 75+ years. Thus, their livelihood depends on the continued protection and respect for our great outdoors. We’re just pleased that they see our work as worthy of their support. [For more information about Joe’s, visit, or stop at their store in Little Canada, at Highway 36 and Rice Street.]

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The TV Table

Recently, our river restoration efforts and this blog site caught the eye of Greg Vandergrift from KARE 11 News. Accompanied by Deb, his photojournalist, we paid a visit to the fishing pier just south of I-694 on the Mississippi River (part of Three Rivers Park District). That is the location of an oversized debris field; the pier naturally catches the logs and trash which have floated downstream with the spring run-off.

During their visit to the river, we were able to explain the different types of trash and debris we’ve found in the river, and some of the ways we go about cleaning it up. We also proved that we know when to quit: A tire proved too dangerous to dislodge from a log jam under the pier, so we left it.

I also had the chance to briefly demonstrate how geo-trashing is done (the process of geo-tagging trash). We came across a busted-up picnic table that was floating upside-down near a spillway. I paddled up to it, captured a waypoint on my GPS device, and then paddled back a few feet to take a photo of the object. That simple: Photo of object, stamped with location of object.
In case you wanted to see the object featured in the new story, it is shown above (and you can click to enlarge it). Below, there is a Google Map showing where the table was trapped in the water (as of 5-18-08).

NOTE: Anyone who attempts to recover the items listed in this posting does so at their own risk. Please adhere to the safety instructions and guidelines provided by the DNR. Finally, let me know if you either intend to remove one or more of these items or debris fields, or that you have succeeded in doing so. Simply share your success story email, and we’ll be happy to publish it at

View Larger Map
© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

Clean with caution

Health care providers abide by a Hippocratic Oath in their practice. The essence of that oath: “First, do no harm.” In other words, don’t rush so quickly into the treatment of a patient that you make a mistake… be sure you’re doing the right thing. Likewise, a river clean-up project should be conducted with care, so that the best of intentions do not yield harmful, unintended consequences.

First, be safe. Be careful of your footing. Don’t over extend yourself. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. A river—any river—can have surprising currents, submerged hazards, inescapably slick shorelines, and other hazards. Know your limitations, and err on the side of caution. Anything that seems a bit too heavy—or just out of reach—can wait to be recovered another way, another day. The Minnesota DNR has loads of helpful tips about how to conduct a safe cleanup. Visit their web site for more information.

Hazardous waste. If you come across paint cans, drums or barrels which could contain petroleum products, fertilizers or other potentially hazardous waste… your smartest move is to not move them at all. If these objects are poorly sealed or partially rusted, even the slightest movement could cause their contents to leak into the water. Worse yet, the contents of those canisters or drums could have explosive or combustible properties. If there is even a chance… leave those objects alone, make a note of their location, and share that information with the proper authorities.

Respect the wildlife and their habitat. We’ve been lucky to see a lot of different critters on or near the water, including muskrats, beaver, raccoons, fox, deer, turtles, bald eagles, cranes… Minnesota and Wisconsin are blessed with an amazing variety of wildlife which depend on the river for sustenance. It’s a good idea to remember they “we’re just visiting, and they live here.” In some cases, this respect is mandated by law. For example, mussels are a completely protected species on the St. Croix River. (It is even unlawful to collect an empty shell.)

Protect and report culturally significant or historically important artifacts. Don’t move them or alter their position. Instead, record their location, take a photo of the object if you can, and report your findings to the National Park Service, Department of Natural Resources, or whichever agency has jurisdiction over the waterway where the finding occurred. For example, on the St. Croix Scenic Riverway, there is a Cultural Resources Specialist who is in charge of providing guidance in the protection of cultural and historic artifacts. Her name is Jean Schaeppi, and you can click here to send an email to her with any questions you might have on the topic. Jean will tell you that the National Park Service is very interested in these items, however, once they are removed from their location, they lose much of their historical importance and become just another historical object. Again: leave them alone, record their position, and report them to Jean (on the St. Croix) or other appropriate authority.

Beware that not all junk is trash! In our surveillance of the Mississippi River, we’ve come across a lot of concrete and cinder block along the shoreline… but not all of it is bad! To be sure, there are a few sites where someone has clearly dumped their leftover construction materials or items removed during a project demolition. But in other cases, discarded concrete has been used by the city, county or state to protect the riverbank from erosion. So if you come across a bunch of street curbing or cinderblock, don’t assume they should be removed. They might be serving an important purpose.

Respect property rights. People who own the property adjacent to a river have the right to control traffic on their land. If you’ll be conducting a cleanup effort which involves land that is privately owned by a person or business, ask their permission. If your cleanup involves “public” lands, you might still need permission; our efforts, so far, have required communication with Three Rivers Park District, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, Anoka County Parks & Rec, the National Park Service, and we’ve also been in touch with both the Minnesota and Wisconsin DNR offices. County administrators can usually help you figure out who the landowners are… so that you can clean up the river without getting into hot water.

Natural states. When working on a clean-up, I’m of the opinion is that if Mother Nature put something in the river, it is not my job to take it out. Often, there will be logs jarred against a fishing pier or bridge truss which can cause debris to gather. In that case, I have no interest in trying to remove the logs or branches. That’s up to nature. My job is to focus on the debris that was placed by human hands.

Anyone who has had the chance to spend time on the river and appreciate its’ beauty can become passionate about efforts to preserve and cleanse those waterways. But in our enthusiasm, it is important to “first, do no harm.” A river can be a fragile thing… and we’re well advised to handle it with care.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.