Merten is newest member of watershed board
In 2003, Mike Merten enjoyed the pristine environment of the Rocky Mountains during a camping and hiking trip to Montana.
The rivers and streams were full of trout.
Later that summer, Merten, a local farmer, rented farmland along the Cedar River in Mower County; while inspecting the property, he spotted a stretch of the river that looked a little like a waterway in Montana.
The Cedar River, however, didn't offer anything for him to catch except a bunch of algae.
Many years ago, someone probably could have caught fish in that spot, if everyone had taken better care of the river, Merten said.
"But maybe there's still a possibility for that in the future," he added, "with the Cedar River Watershed District helping make it happen."
Merten, 55, joined the CRWD Board on Wednesday for his first meeting since his appointment April 12 to a three-year term.
He succeeds Dan Regner, who didn't seek reappointment; Merten is one of Mower County's four representatives on the seven-member CRWD board.
The county has a large majority of the 278,540 acres that compose CRWD. Dodge, Steele and Freeborn counties also have sections of land within the district.
State and local officials formed CRWD in April 2007 in response to the watershed's worst floods, which occurred in 2000 and 2004.
CRWD is in a position to affect the livelihood of everyone living in the watershed, Merten said, noting that "we all have an interest in clean water for drinking and recreation."
Top goals involve reducing flooding and improving water quality.
"I hope to help accomplish these goals without placing burdensome regulations and bureaucracy to residents of the watershed," he said.
Merten, who grew up on his family farm southwest of Austin, moved into the city of Austin last summer but continues to work as a farmer and in seed sales.
He sought the open CRWD board spot because he believes there needs to be strong agricultural representation on the board because of the large number of acres of cultivated cropland in the watershed.
One of Merten's goals as a CRWD manager will involve working to increase the amount of public education done by the board during the discussion or proposal of projects.