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Todd Haas is chairman of the Lower Rum River WMO and member of the Rum River Watershed Policy Committee. (Photo submitted)

This is the fifth in a series of monthly columns by local water experts. These columns on local rivers and land use are a collaboration between the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region and other environmental groups in Anoka County. To learn more about the League of Women Voters, check out lwvumrr.org.

Growing up in Anoka County, I loved playing baseball and hockey. My dad pushed my brothers and sisters to play hard, and back in those days if you did not play hard or did not play well, you generally heard about it on the ride home. As I got older, my dad always made sure that there was more to life just playing sports. Even though our family did not have a boat to fish, there was always my grandfather who had a boat up near Alexandria. We spent quite a few times fishing walleyes and panfish through the summer season. During the fall seasons, my dad spent a lot of time hunting pheasants and chasing deer, and as I got old enough to hunt, I went.

Over the years, I continued to hunt and fish. But as grew older I learned about how important is take care of our lakes, rivers, creeks and wetlands. And after serving as a board member for the Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization over the last 25 years, I saw how important it was for watersheds, cities and other agencies to protect our water resources.

The Lower Rum River WMO (member cities are Anoka, Andover and Ramsey) is now working on its fourth generation plan. As part of this plan, there has been participation from a citizens advisory group made up of residents who live within the WMO. They have been providing comments throughout the process and will continue to do so until the plan has been approved by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, which approves all watershed plans throughout the Metropolitan Area.

As part of plan update, the WMO will be setting goals, creating policies and developing stormwater standards and requirements that the cities will have to comply with for new developments and redevelopment areas so that every effort can be made to treat water runoff before it enters the Rum River.

Now as some of you are aware, the Lower Rum River WMO is just a small portion of the overall Rum River watershed. For those that are not familiar the Rum River basin, the headwaters of the Rum River flows out of beautiful Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota winding through cities like Onamia, Milaca, Cambridge, Isanti, Princeton, St. Francis and eventually through Anoka where the river discharges into the Mississippi River.

You may be asking yourself, who is responsible for overseeing the Rum River Watershed north of Anoka County up to Mille Lacs? Well, the answer is the Rum River Policy Group that has been around for over a year, which has representative from counties, conservation districts and WMOs (Upper and Lower Rum River). This policy group has been working hard on preparing a strategy plan to deal with stressors that are affecting fish and bugs by restoring or protecting water bodies that may have biological impairments such as dissolved oxygen, suspended solids, elevated nutrients and others concerns throughout the entire watershed itself.

So the next time you think about the Rum River and how important it is to you, think about doing what you can do to avoid dumping grass clippings, leaves, fertilizer, dirt and soap suds into the street or storm sewer. Also, it helps when everyone does their part to pick up animal waste and trash and to check manufacturers’ recommendations for pesticides, paint and road salt before using them in their own yards and driveways.

We hope this generation and the next generation will do what they can to educate the younger generation how important the Rum River is so everyone can continue enjoying activities swimming, canoeing, tubing, kayaking and fishing.

Todd Haas is chairman of the Lower Rum River WMO and member of the Rum River Watershed Policy Committee.

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