Contact: Jennifer Groebner, 651-296-7706
St. Paul, Minn. - As the ice-out begins this spring, striking up conversation at a river's edge with strangers may be hard for most people, but not for Louise Hotka. While most other people visit the Mississippi River in Minneapolis for recreational purposes - picnicking, swimming or fishing - Hotka is preparing to take river samples as a part of her volunteer duties for the Citizen Stream-Monitoring Program (CSMP).
"It's nice to have an obvious common interest in the water where otherwise mutual "big city" suspicions might inhibit us," Hotka said. She monitors the Mississippi River downstream of St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.
Hotka is one of four volunteers who have been involved with the CSMP since its inception. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) launched the program in 1998 and it began with 17 volunteers monitoring 22 sites. Now, 800 volunteers are enrolled to monitor nearly 1,300 stream locations across the state.
Hotka said that she has had a particular interest in streams and that she enjoys the scientific methodology of stream monitoring. "It's hard to beat a commitment to go to the river's edge on a regular basis. It provides a framework for doing what I enjoy. My least favorite part is when life gets in the way and I don't get there to document changes that may be happening in the river," Hotka said.
Volunteer data, like the data that Hotka provides, is extremely useful to the MPCA. Often times, data that is received from volunteers is the only information that the MPCA has for some rivers and streams. Volunteer-collected data helps the MPCA to assess the quality of Minnesota's waterbodies and to determine if a stream is impaired.
With more than 92,000 miles of streams and rivers in Minnesota, the MPCA needs more volunteers like Hotka. If you live nearby a river in your area, consider getting involved in the CSMP. Stream monitoring is easy and fun, and the MPCA provides you with the equipment and training.
Check out the MPCA Web site for www.pca.state.mn.us/water/csmp.html for more information, or call toll-free at 1-800-657-3864.