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Sioux Falls Holds Conference to Discuss State of the Big Sioux River

Monday, Mayor Mike Huether hosted the first “We Need the River and the River Needs Us” summit. The river being the Big Sioux which flows through Sioux Falls.

Nineteen speakers from state, County, City, business, science, and recreation interests spoke. Two of my friends attended the event. This is their impression of what happened and what they learned.

The mayor started off the event, showing a bag of lawn fertilizer and his spreader announcing to all, he realizes he is part of the problem.

Two things stuck out to my friends: One, there is too much fecal material in the river.  Second, there is too much phosphorus in the water. Both conditions make the river unsafe to swim.

Both of these problems can be fixed by changing the behavior of man. Fecal material gets in the water because livestock, wild animals, and even pets defecate in, near the river, or in a drainage way.

Obviously, livestock standing in the river is an issue.

Your pet – if you don’t pick up after it, in your yard, on walks, or at the dog park, then you are part of the problem. Every pile of manure, no matter how small, adds to the problem. It is one of the reasons you shouldn’t swim in the river.

Side question: why is the city dog park within 50′ of the river?

Next is phosphorus, a chemical. It is used in fertilizer and in other ways by industry. Farmers use it, and so do city folks, to create ‘the perfect lawn.’ Both uses end up in the river causing problems for fish, plants, and humans.

Both of my friends, Robin and Emily, said they learned many things. They were impressed with the knowledge and sincerity of the presenters.

However, they were disappointed that no proposals were put forth to make changes in the situation.

The Big Sioux River is listed as one of the worst rivers in the country. It has that status because we have not made the complete commitment to change it.

This summit was the first involving the many people involved with water quality on the river from it’s headwaters near Watertown, to it’s end at the junction of the Missouri near Sioux City.

Another disappointment to my friends: no follow up discussions are scheduled.

For more information on the event and the presentations the City of Sioux Falls website has it all: www.siouxfalls.org

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