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Minnesota River group moves ahead with ‘Blueway’ initiative despite setback

HUTCHINSON — The Minnesota River Watershed Alliance voted Jan. 21 at its quarterly meeting in Hutchinson to continue working on the Minnesota River Blueway initiative, to implement its goals, and seek support from federal agencies.  

Over the past year the Alliance — an informal, citizen-led network in the Minnesota River Basin — worked to gather widespread support and submitted a nomination to the U.S. Department of Interior, requesting Blueway designation for the Minnesota River watershed.

The Department of Interior established the National Blueway System in 2012 but recently decided to end the program. The Minnesota River appeared to be on the verge of becoming the third designated Blueway when that decision was made.

“Although the Department of the Interior discontinued the National Blueway Program, to the great disappointment of those who worked so hard to obtain a National Blueway designation for the Minnesota River Valley, the Minnesota River Blueway Initiative is still an active program,” said Ted Suss of Wabasso, in a post on the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance blog.

“The Blueway Initiative will bring together people from all industries, all interest groups, and all communities in the Minnesota River Valley to continue the already successful efforts to clean up the Minnesota River, increase public use of the Minnesota River as a tourism and recreation asset, to expand economic development in the valley, and to make the Minnesota River Valley an even better place to live, farm, play, operate a business, and to visit.”

The Alliance will continue to use the “Blueway” name for the time being.  Work on branding and marketing will continue.

Suss said the Alliance hopes to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Interior and other federal agencies that will outline a working arrangement and include commitments of federal agency support that will very nearly match the working arrangements and federal commitments of support as a National Blueway designation would have provided.

The next Minnesota River Watershed Alliance meeting is scheduled for April 15 at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson. A potluck meal begins at 6 p.m., and the meeting at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend. More information about the Alliance is on the web at: www.