July 20, 2009

On-the-River with the Travel Channel

Text and Photos by Vicki Richmond

Missouri River Relief has become a "go-to" group for "on-the-Missouri-River" experiences. We’ve become the people to call when inside information is needed about our river.

This weekend I had the unique opportunity to take some media types out on our little boat to shoot some unique views of the Kansas City skyline for a Travel Channel segment. Michael and I splashed the boat and enjoyed the opportunity to watch the Kit Bond Bridge construction from the water while we waited for a call form the producers.

We met the crew at Kaw Point on one of those days when it just pays to live in the Midwest. The sky was blue, the temperatures mild and the river just about deserted. We quickly set up the camera in the bow of the boat and began a slow motor toward the skyline.

Each of the video crew remarked that we had the river to ourselves. They were amazed at how lovely and scenic the river is, and how under appreciated it seemed. A lone kayak, headed downriver from Montana caught their eye, and then a fisherman motoring slowly past, enjoying his solitude, all made their way into the video footage.

I was interviewed about my feelings about the river, about the huge challenges facing it and the need to come together to look for new ways to manage it for all of its uses.

It was a great opportunity to give some perspective about our town, and our river and put a distinctive slant on it- River Relief style!

July 13, 2009

Post 4th of July River Road Cleanup

Easley, MO

It was a hot & humid day on the river, and not a breeze stirred. It was the kind of day that reminded me why we don't do River Clean-ups in the Summer time here in the midwest. Yet, a hardy crowd or river rats gathered at Cooper's Landing for a day of festivities on the beautiful Big Muddy.

Three of our crew staffed a safety boat and presented to the many participants of a Big Muddy Float, organized by our sister organization, Missouri River Communities Network.

Six of our crew gathered for a post-4th of July River Road Clean-up, to dispose of the careless trash left by people who think it's cool to blow stuff up down on the banks of the river, and then leave all of their trash there. We were able to clean a 4 mile stretch of road before half of us started dropping like flies due to the heat. The crew on the river were also able to clean a small stretch, netting a refrigerator in addition to the wasted fireworks & assorted litter on her sandy beaches.

Here is a list of what we found in just 5 miles on the river!

9 bags of Trash
9 bags of Recyclables
1 box & 2 bags of Fire Works remains
3 Coolers
1 Refrigerator
1 large Truck Tire
1 Computer Monitor in pieces
1 Styrofoam Chunk 2'x2'
1 Toshiba 27" TV in pieces
1 moldy Mattress & Box Springs set
1 bag of seasoned Catfish remains
1 bag full of unopened Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies
1 dozen fancy Bottle Rockets
1 Magnum Condom wrapper
1/2 of a Fishing Pole
1 Fishing Net
3 good Sparklers

This amounts to approximately 1/2 a ton of trash!

I hope someday people will have more respect for this special place. At one point, we were cleaning a highly used beach right off of the road where people come to party and fish, there were at least three pairs of fishermen & women sitting there when we showed up, and to our surprise, they started helping us clean the beach, bringing us armfuls of plastic bottles, cans & fishing trash. It probably took us 5 minutes to clean it up with so many hands, and I think both parties were thankful & aware that, yes, there are some people out there who use and care for the river too!

A big thanks goes out to our volunteer crew members who survived such harsh conditions to clean the river!

Anthony Pettit
Joe Engeln
Steve Schnarr
Melanie Cheney
Lynne Hooper
Ruthie Moccia
Dyan Pursell
Scot Heidbrink
John Brady

and as always, to the Boone County Public Works Department for allowing us to Adopt-a-Road & pile massive amounts of trash on it for them to pick up.

Thank you!

July 7, 2009

Trash Tally & Results!

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up
Chris Larson Park, Sioux City IA
June 27, 2009

Total Volunteers: 182
MRR Crew: 23
Boats: 11 (4 Missouri River Relief, 1 Army Corps of Engineers, 2 Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 4 Nebraska Game and Parks)
River Miles: 12 (10 miles on the Missouri River from river mile 728-738, 2 miles starting at the mouth of the Big Sioux)
River Level: 16.7 feet on the USGS real-time Sioux City gage
Landfill Tons: to be announced
Scrap Tons: to be announced
Tires: 7
Total Tonnage: to be announced

Trash Tally!!!!

97 bags of trash
7 tires
4 chunks of styrofoam
2 55 gallon metal drums
2 refrigerators
4 washers
2 hot water heaters
1 chest freezer
1 propane tank
1 microwave
1 microwave cart
1 mattress
1 box spring
2 bed rails
1 recliner
1 folding chair
1 1948 light blue Buick Roadmaster hood
1 1966 Iowa license plate
2 car bumpers
1 side view mirror
1 rearview mirror
1 auto grill
2 wooden pallets
1 pvc pipe
5 pieces of lumber
33 metal strips
3 metal pipes
5 metal hunks
36 feet of steel cable
3 pieces of chain link fence
6 pieces of rebar
1 water tank
1 burner
1 grill
2 8X10 sheets of plate metal
1 bridge decking
6 pieces of metal decking
1 metal fence with wood posts
Farm fencing
2 televisions
1 computer monitor
1 pogo stick
1 No Wake sign
1 Private Property Union Pacific Railroad sign
1 golf ball
1 doggie door
1 railroad car hand brake actuator
1 tin of wet snuff
1 pale yellow toilet bowl
1 duck decoy head
1 computer monitor
1 small U.S. Flag
1 polished native copper stone from Santa Rita, NM
1 minnow fishing lure
1 full can of beer-Miller Lite
1 football
1 plaid lawn chair
1 crab skeleton
Best darned find of the day, a rusty old pogo stick

July 4, 2009

Siouxland Adventures...

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up
June 27, 2009
Chris Larsen Park, Sioux City, IA
Scenic Park, South Sioux City, NE
Text by Vicki Richmond, photos by Carol Merbach and Melanie Cheney

Siouxland is a rare place on the Big Muddy. Three states (Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota) come together in this vibrant community. Development along the river is occurring rapidly, and folks really take advantage of the recreation that the river provides.

Our crew makes a long haul up there. Six hours for some, eight for others. A special commitment and a bit of bravery are involved in hopping into a van or truck and taking off for parts unknown. The Missouri River Reliefers were excited about getting back on the water; for some it was the first clean up of the year and a cause for celebration.

Something happened in Siouxland that we’ve not seen regularly. A local committee formed to take the event to new heights, hosting us congenially and doing much of the on-the-ground leg work. Working with an expanding crew is exciting. New folks bring new ideas to the table and help us old-timers hone our skills.

The River Relief crew’s first day on deck began with a field trip to the Wastewater Treatment plant. This plant is being renovated by American Water, so our crew was able to see how retrofits are being used to upgrade the treatment plant to meet new water quality standards to the Missouri River. We toured the grounds and lagoons and made our way into the lab.

The lab is quite unique. Among the beakers and samples normally seen in any laboratory, tropical fish swim in containers retired from their chemistry days. Plants grow on windowsills. A friendly staff took our intrusion in stride, allowing us to poke around and look through their microscopes. A poster on the wall caught some of our eyes, and Steve, Daniel and I returned to the microscopes to try to identify the organisms from their poster snapshots. Special thanks go to Desiree and Karl for hosting us on this educational trip, and allowing us to interrupt their busy days and to Sherry for sharing her knowledge with our interested crew. (photo on right are samples taken from various effluent sources that discharge into the wastewater treatment plant)

After our field trip, the crew moved to lunch, while I returned to the beautiful Marina Inn to get paperwork settled and ready for our crew meeting later that day. After a delicious Mexican lunch, crew was ready to take to the water to scout for trash that could be safely accessed by volunteers on a Missouri that was running high and swift.

Trash is different here on the first city of the channelized river. We don’t see the large concentrations of trash that flooding usually brings. Instead, fishing refuse and the trash transported on storm drains is predominant. Few dumps exist, although a decision to work on the site of the old municipal landfill was made. The heavy and bulky trash has slowly moved down the banks, escaping the confines of the landfill. We’d worked on this site before, and will do so again with the help of strong volunteers.

The scouting crews returned just in time for dinner at the Chris Larsen Park shelter, enjoying a fine meal provided by Curly’s. Ellen, Tasha and Desiree had made sure the entire crew was well fed! Our MRR crew mingled with the Sioux Crew, cementing friendships made last year and creating new ones. The support of the local Sioux folks was astounding, our old friends from the Sgt. Floyd Museum were there, as well as partners from Argosy Casino, the City of Sioux City, American Water, the Siouxland Mud Puppies, the LDS church and community volunteers.

We enjoyed the opportunity to visit with our friends, but the dinner had a purpose- we needed to get a clear view of who was doing what! People stepped up quickly to staff the sign-in table, orientation station, safety station and lifejacket checks. Our MRR crew would handle dispatch, helped by Paul Lepisto of the Izaac Walton League. Our captains and mates were paired, each bringing their own brand of education to the boat trips that shuttle volunteers to the locations we’d scouted just that afternoon.

Events like these depend on the partners that come to bring their unique skills to the event. Nebraska Game and Parks was bringing four boats, Iowa Department of Natural Resources was bringing two and the Army Corps of Engineers another. With our boats, a total of 11 boats would shuttle volunteers to their project sites.

To add excitement to the day, Sally and her wonderful Keep Northeast Nebraska Beautiful team had designed a trash contest with a cash prize for both the best find of the day and the group with the largest turnout. This contest augmented our own trash and treasure contest and will be a model that we will use up and down the river.

Saturday dawned with the threat of rain that kept the morning cool and our eyes on the horizon. As we set up pop-up tents and tables in the cool of the morning excitement grew as the agency boats launched, and the large fish tank brought by Nebraska Game and Parks was filled.

Quickly, sign-in was the center of activity as volunteers arrived, signed in and were equipped with reusable water bottles, t-shirts and gloves. Passing through orientation, safety and lifejackets, volunteers waited patiently while dispatchers boarded them into waiting boats, with last instructions. Each boat was assigned a reach of river that had been scouted on Friday, and the trash concentrations flagged.

Volunteers who were unable to join the on the water team set out for the trail. Tasha and Desiree began shuttling people and trash in Tasha’s ATV, bringing volunteers half way down the trail so that the trash pick up became the road home. Bags were left on the trail and picked up by Tasha and her crew. Trash was then loaded into American Water pick-ups for their final trip to the dumpster on the Nebraska side.

Over at the Scenic Park ramp in Nebraska, dumpsters arrived and a front-end loader began the ballet of moving trash form our heavily laden boats to the waiting dumpsters. Each boatload of trash is logged on a tally sheet, and these numbers compiled. Our trash lists are something of an archeology project, and show the wide variety of what is out there. Ruthie tallied the trash while John, Ty and Josh made sure it all made it to the correct dumpster.

About 2:45 my phone rang with a call for a room key and an invitation to go for a swim in the hotel pool. Checking the time, I was amazed that the clean up had progressed so far so fast. Our crews were done and the trash loaded by 3:00. This gave us time to take a break and a much needed shower so that we could again come together for a dinner to celebrate the day.

The weather cooperated, allowing us to hold the dinner in the shelter in Scenic Park. Just next to the shelter was an enormous jungle gym, complete with a spider web to climb. The crew began to giggle as we climbed aboard for a group photo. American Water had Aggies cater a dinner for the volunteers who had worked so hard all day.

Siouxland has a special connection to the river and a knack for making folks feel at home. Special thanks to the Sioux Crew planning committee: Desiree McCaslen, Ellen Myers, Tasha Barker and Sally Reinert for all of their time and talent. Our events could not happen with out the generous support of sponsors, and that list will appear in another post on this blog.

July 3, 2009

Summer Fun!

by Melanie Cheney
Americorps Stream Team Assistant
Missouri River Relief

Well June was packed full with fun summertime events. The weather was fine & the highlights are many. My favorite ed event was with hundred's of cub scouts at our local city park, Stephens Lake. Groups of 20 would come through our booth every hour on the hour, for 8 hours! It was such a pleasure to work and play with these kids, they were so intelligent & well behaved! Ann Koenig (Forrester for MDC) plays the Macro-Mayem game with the scouts
Many of them were definitely "gifted" and sometimes my lecture on water quality and Stream Teams would get turned around into Q & A's, ranging from scientists studying parasitic twins to why old people shrink, after that last one, I quickly saw that we were getting way off track & returned to our discussion on macro-invertebrates! The next day, Steve & I were off to celebrate Stream Team's 20th anniversary down in Waynesville! We participated in a float on the Big Piney, mingled with fellow stream teamers, listened to old time bluegrass, ate BBQ & together shared our fondest memories during a heartwarming documentary on the program and it's success'. Here's a link to watch the 20th anniversary documentary: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=02D5F418F1519949 Steve & I on our float (top)
A beautiful mayfly I rescued out of the water and set to dry on my paddle (bottom)
On Sunday, I attended some really great workshops on terrestrial insects and fly fishing. It was a blast!

Lastly, Missouri River Relief ended June with a big splash in Sioux City, IA. For the second year in a row, we helped local Siouxlanders clean-up their stretch of river. There wasn't all that much trash to be had, but the experience of working with the "Sioux Crew" was priceless. We even got to take a tour of a wastewater treatment plant! Check out over a hundred photos we are posting of this event on our Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/8478409@N03/. What a great month it has been, Missouri's streams & rivers have once again left me full, yet ready for more.