May 23, 2011

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Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up
Sioux City, IA & South Sioux City, NE
May 7, 2011

text by Steve Schnarr; photos by Steve Schnarr, Dylan Lehrbaum, Melanie Cheney, Colin Doggett
Check out all our photos from the clean-up by clicking here. 
OR visit our full clean-up report here.

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11
Marta, Sally & Desiree
We have a special relationship with the Siouxland area. With partners on both sides of the river coordinating local efforts and outreach, it’s become a  four-year tradition to clean-up the head of the channelized river.

This year, local coordination was shared by Sally Reinert, of Keep Northeast Nebraska Beautiful, and Desiree McCaslen who works in environmental monitoring at the wastewater treatment plant on the Iowa side. They decided this year to hold both boarding and disposal on the Nebraska side, switching locations between states each year. It worked great! An added bonus this year was both Desiree and Sally were able to hit the river to help clean up this year.

They also fed our crew. There’s no better way to get into our hearts than serving up great food!

The big story this year was the high water. The Siouxland area rarely sees water this high, and with the Gavin’s Point Dam scheduled to release up to 60,000 cfs of water through December, the river will be this high or higher for most of the year.

While many worried about the safety of running a cleanup at such levels, we found this to be a good time to hold a cleanup. More areas were accessible since steep, loose riprap banks were underwater. It was tough to find landing spots through the trees in some locations, but volunteers were able to cleanup areas likely to be flooded later. However, one of the dumps we’ve been working on for several years was completely submerged. We’ll get it eventually!

Siouxland Mudpuppies –
Desiree and her husband Josh have been cultivating a group of high school students into a force for cleanup of their hometown. We’ve worked with these hard working environmental stewards for several years. This year, it was an all girl crew and they were great!

Nebraska Game and Parks –
One of our favorite agencies to work with is NGPC biologists. These folks are very skilled operators, and their huge boats can haul over a dozen people and a LOT of trash. This year, Ken Hatten and Kirk Steffenson were on board (NGPC was also helping at the Yankton clean-up…good work guys!).

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11
Ken Hatten, NGPC, loaded this boat himself, cuz he was "bored". photo by Dylan Lehrbaum.
We were kind of blown away by Ken – he worked with Cargill volunteers and worked side by side with them, bumping them to several different cleanup spots. Then, after lunch, he disappeared for a while as we were regathering forces for the trash haul. Just as we were getting ready to head out, he showed up with his boat full to the brim with trash – filled completely by himself.

The Cargill GOSCNA and DSO plants were our main cash sponsors of this event, and have been for several years. Plant manager Brian Spencer has turned it into a great team-building event for employees and their families. Our crew member Liz Doubet was our liason to the group, and she was impressed at how great the families worked together. It’s what we know about cleanups – it creates a unique opportunity for families to experience real nature and service to the river together.

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11

Siouxland Clean-up is in the bag.
Sioux Crew
A great mix of folks from both states helped run this event, from registration to safety to dispatch. Our crew members tried to teach how and why we do what we do, and this great crew of people made it happen. Thanks Sioux Crew!!!!

River Relief Crew
Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11Our crew is made up of volunteers, mostly from Columbia and Kansas City, that travel all over the place making clean-ups happen. This time, we had one event in Omaha on April 30, then two events the following weekend in Yankton and Siouxland. Our “deep bench” of excellent crew volunteers has grown to the point where only three crewmembers had to help both weekends. This makes us able to accomplish so much more. Our small staff would really struggle without the dedication of this amazing and talented crew. 

Trash Treasures

Check out the Trash Tally for some of the interesting finds from the clean-up. Of course the kilo of cocaine made the news, but there were some other interesting things. The Coast Guard Auxilliary (our partners for four years) pulled in an abandoned Jet Ski they’d been trying to get for several years. The high water made it easier to access.

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11

The trash contest brought some great things to shore – the front end and gas tank from a motorcycle (Liz Doubet brought it home to make a bird house out of the tank) – a complete exercise machine – a typewriter (remember those?) – a Chinese flag – a wedding garter (!) – and a six-disc CD changer (with speakers). The "Most Unusual Find" went to a dog collar (complete with dog skeleton...ugh!). I never cease to be befuddled by the weird stuff people find on the river banks.

People + Action = Community Enhancement
Synergy is a welcome addition to any clean-up event. This time we teamed up with the PACE event. While some PACE groups worked on planting and beautifying Scenic Park, we worked on beautifying the river. Then we all got together for lunch and a really great Trash Contest. Good stuff!

Cool new trash bags

We were excited to try out the trash bags donated by Keep Iowa Beautiful. Bright orange (easy to see), biodegradable and tough – they worked perfectly. We’ll be finding out the source for these great bags and sharing it here. We need tough bags for river clean-ups – they get dragged through the woods and sometimes filled with sharp objects. We’ve seen lesser bags get shredded to pieces. The most exciting thing was that these bags are biodegradable – made of plant byproducts they don’t add to our consumption of plastic…the most common item we find on cleanups. Perfect!
Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11
This cleanup was a great example of how smaller groups of volunteers can make for a high quality event and still clean up a lot of trash. Many of our boats were able to stick with their volunteer groups, which makes it easier to shuttle to new locations when they get one place cleaned up. And our great crewmembers get a chance to work hand-in-hand with folks. It builds the energy and amazing things get accomplished. With only 97 volunteers, we removed 3.6 tons of trash! Great work everyone!

Urban camping
Most places we do cleanups, we find a riverside camp to base out of for the weekend. This time, Scenic Park gave us their whole “Eco-Cabin” complex for free. The staff was amazing and helpful, donating ice and firewood to us all weekend.

These cabins are something else. They are collaborative projects by college architecture students. One looks like a rusty metal cube with no entrance. But, you tug on a handle and suddenly one wall slides to the side, creating an lighted entryway. The top bunk is only accessible by climbing one of the walls. Awesome!

Cabin 1 has a wall that gets cranked up, creating an overhang and a perfect space for our kitchen. A beautiful rock fireplace area located on the point by the river was our gathering place. Perfect. Everyone commented on how strange it is to literally camp in the middle of a city. Trains, interstate traffic and the buzz of the city was ever present. The smell of the rendering plant on the Iowa side would drift over and make us gag. But then a flock of geese would fly overhead and the sun would set beautifully over the bridge. Such a great experience!

Pass the stars!

Thanks to all volunteers, sponsors and great partners that made this event happen. We know we’ll be returning to Siouxland for years to come.

Siouxland Missouri River Clean-up 5-7-11

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