Water Tour (copy)

On of the many stops on my Monday bus tour included a talk by Tony Runkel, left, of the Minnesota Geological Survey, about the geology of aquifers in Southeast Minnesota at the city of Fountain's Big Spring near Fountain.

FILLMORE COUNTY HIGHWAY — Things happen fast in a newsroom.

One day, you're looking at your calendar going, "What am I going to do next week?" The next day, you've got more places to go than time will allow.

My craziness started last Thursday when I received an email from Cathy Rofshus, spokeswoman for the MPCA here in Rochester, asking if I was planning to go on the Clean Water Council bus tour on Monday.

"The what?"

I like clean water. You should see the collection of water bottles on my desk. Some days, I'm more hydrated than a trout. 

Anyway, I called Cathy to ask when this was taking place, how I get on the bus and who was in charge. She put me in touch with Paul Gardner, the administrator of the Clean Water Council, a state agency that's part, I think, of the MPCA. Paul said, yes, we've got room for you on the bus. 

OK. So, that's my Monday, right? A bus tour of Southeast Minnesota clean water projects will likely take my whole day. After all, Cathy tells me I need to board the bus at 8 a.m. and it won't return to Rochester until 4 p.m. So I'm in this for the long haul.

How Did This Happen?

Despite the prospect of being stuck on a bus with a bunch of strangers — turns out, I do know a couple of the folks on the trip — I'm surprisingly excited to go on this tour. With all the farm reporting I've done, water issues have sort of seeped into my repertoire. 

So, Monday morning I board the bus and that's when a really long day starts. 

Don't get me wrong, it was a fun day, and I got a story for the Post Bulletin, plus I'll rewrite it somewhat for AgriNews. So, that's a twofer. 

But our first stop on the tour was in west Rochester where we walked about a mile-long stretch of Cascade Creek where the Clean Water Council has helped push a project to restore the banks of the creek in order to reduce erosion and slow water flow. 

Sock It To Me

So, it rained a good deal last week, and the ground had yet to dry out. Plus, morning dew and the general moisture of being in a river plain and ... well, my day started off with soggy socks. Sopping wet, soggy socks that never dried out during the whole bus trip. 

Did I mention I find water issues fascinating? 

From Cascade Creek we moved on to Chatfield where there wasn't a drop of water in sight. 

Ah, but there was a field planted with Kernza (University of Minnesota Registered Trademark), a wheat perennial that soaks up water, works as its own cover crop and helps scrub nitrates from the landscape. 

It's one of the things that Post Bulletin readers will learn less about while AgriNews readers get more detail on this part of the trip. 

Same is true of the stop near Grand Meadow where we learned about a project to monitor water as it flows across a farm field on what is essentially the headwaters of the South Branch of the Root River. 

It's About Space, Man

Why two stories on one bus trip? Well, first of all the Post Bulletin and AgriNews have different audiences. Sure, there's some overlap, but a weekly newspaper devoted to farm issues isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea strained through soggy socks. 

Second, as we write stories around here, we get a readout on our screen that tells us the word count and the depth (in standard column inches) of our stories. By the time I'm nearing 20 inches, I know I've got to start wrapping something up unless I've got a good reason. 

Monday night, showered, clean dry socks on my feet, I was hitting 20 inches with plenty left to write, so I cut the agriculture parts to save for AgriNews. 

Don't worry, you'll be able to look it up online next week when AgriNews prints. 

Twice The Misery, Two Stories

During a stop for lunch in Preston (my old "Journalism Ethics" professor would take away my B-plus if he knew I ate the lunch provided by the Clean Water Council), I sat and interviewed state Sen. Chris Eaton. Over Kerna bars (a dessert snack that was delicious) I complained a bit about my socks. 

"Oh, me, too," Eaton said, showing me her soggy, mud-covered sneakers. 

See, water is everyone's concern. Especially if you squish when you step. 

Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Friday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.

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