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Lake Pepin alliance group receives grant

A Red Wing-based group working to slow sediment deposit in Lake Pepin received a $25,000 reward for its efforts.

The Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance, in conjunction with the Montevideo, Minn.-based Clean Up the River Environment group, was awarded the grant earlier this month.

"The whole thing is pretty amazing," said Mike McKay, executive director of the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance.

The two Minnesota groups formed what they've dubbed "Friendship Tours," which were launched in August and September. The tours were aimed at forging an understanding of river issues between environmental advocates and farmers in the Minnesota River basin.

"Farmers see themselves as good stewards of the land," McKay said. "We're saying, 'Understand that stewardship to the total consequence here.'"

Environmental advocates say sediment runoff from farmland and other land-use practices in the Minnesota River basin ends up in Lake Pepin. McKay said the outcome has sped up the lake's remaining life from 3,000 years to 300 years.

"We're saying, 'Ack! That's a short amount of time," he said.

The grant will go toward continuing collaborative efforts between CURE and LPLA for the benefit of Lake Pepin.

McKay said funding will help ramp up efforts to solve the problem, which he said has seen extensive study but little action.

"Not a lot of progress has been made," he said. "It's time to act, to do some common-sense things."

He hopes that can begin by officials enforcing rules and statutes already on the books pertaining to land-use setbacks and drainage.

Competition for the grant, established by the Bush Foundation, was formidable.

More than 800 nonprofit organizations were tapped to contend for the project, with 233 entries received.

Judges narrowed the field to 20 semi-finalists before winnowing it to three finalists.

The final three were required to present four-minutes video explanations of their projects. The videos were posted to the Internet, where the public was invited to vote for their favorites over a 10-day period.

More than 3,000 online votes were cast, with approximately 1,350 views going to the Friendship Tour video.