Rochester Public Utilities | Blog

25 Years of Recognizing Individuals and Organizations for Environmental Achievements in the Community

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and Olmsted County mark 25 years of recognizing environmental achievements by announcing the recipients of the 2016 Environmental Achievement Awards. The awards were first given out back in 1991 and have now grown and expanded to cover a wider range of environmental achievements in the area. This year’s recipients will be recognized at an awards banquet on January 19 at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. Past award recipients have been invited to commemorate the 25th year of the awards. The awards honor individuals, organizations, schools and businesses that have made a significant contribution in 2016 towards environmental quality in any of the following categories: renewable efforts, conservation, energy, water, agriculture, education, and other.

The 2016 recipients are:

Terri Dugan
As part of her capstone project in the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, Terri Dugan organized a volunteer effort to restore a 10-acre woodland on the west side of Quarry Hill Park. Terri and her team of volunteers flagged a sustainable trail, blocked a steep erosion path, and planted 60 species of native flora. Summer of Service (SOS) teens assisted in clearing deadfall and invasive species. This restoration project allows hikers to enjoy a part of the park that was previously inaccessible.

Additionally, Terri started the Weed Warriors program at Quarry Hill. Since 2014, Terri and other volunteers have cleared over 20 acres of invasive plant species. She continues to play a major role in educating the public about the detriments of Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn.

The Green Thumb Initiative
The Green Thumb Initiative (GTI) is a hands-on educational program for environmentally conscious students who attend the Rochester Alternative Learning Center (ALC). GTI is involved in a number of student-led projects. The group maintains the school’s garden, organizes Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions, and introduces students from other schools to raised-bed gardening.

This past spring, GTI transformed an empty plot at the fairgrounds into a small space gardening demonstration. The students cultivated the soil over a demolished building’s rocky foundation and planted a mixture of vegetable crops and ornamental plants. A mulch path leading through the garden was added to showcase a variety of “upcycled” planting containers. The containers included an old grill, milk crates, and shoes. Signs were placed near each planting to inform patrons how each upcycled container was created. Produce from the garden did not go to waste; some of the vegetables were donated to the Salvation Army, while others were used to teach a science lesson on food preservation at the ALC.

First Student
First Student in Rochester, Minnesota services Rochester Public Schools for student transportation and provides intra-town transportation for Mayo Clinic. In an effort to reduce their environmental impact, First Student upgraded their fleet with vehicles that run on alternative fuels. Thirty-four propane powered school buses, twelve propane powered shuttle mini-coaches, and four compressed natural gas (CNG) powered transit buses operate throughout the city. Utilizing these alternative fuel sources reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality in Rochester. First Student further reduces emissions with its three-minute idling policy.

Jeffery O’Neill
Jeffery O’Neill understands the important role agriculture plays in preserving water resources. His farm is located along the Middle Branch of the Whitewater River, and he has worked to curb runoff by converting an area of land that was previously used as a feedlot into fields that support fruit and vegetable production. He used mulch to establish crop rows and seeded a ryegrass cover over an area adjacent to the river. These modifications represent Jeffery’s commitment to sustainable land management.

2015–2016 Fifth Graders of Gage Elementary Garden Boxes
Students at Gage Elementary aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. This past spring, fifth graders submitted designs for a series of raised garden planters. With a little guidance from several skilled teachers, the students learned to use a variety of tools. Once complete, the garden boxes were filled with topsoil and vegetable seedlings. The students tended the garden into the summer, and eventually harvested their crop. Produce collected from the garden went to the school’s Community Resource Room to support families in need.

Dr. Cory Rubin
As an educator for Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC), Dr. Cory Rubin is able to connect with future environmental leaders through experiential learning and extracurricular leadership. Cory serves on the RCTC Stormwater Committee where he advises and assists with decisions that affect stormwater management on the campus. In his role as advisor to the Ecology Club, Cory assists with an annual cleanup along the Zumbro River, organizes tree plantings, and assists in the management of the Native Species Garden at RCTC.

Off campus, he has organized neighborhood tree planting events, been part of the Earthfest Planning Committee, and currently serves on the Rochester Energy Commission.

Lincoln K-8 FIRST LEGO League Team
FIRST LEGO League is an extracurricular program that challenges students to solve real-world problems by applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. Students enhance a variety of skills in the process: critical thinking, team building, and public speaking. During the 2015-2016 school year, the Lincoln K-8 FIRST LEGO League team found a way to reduce their lunchroom waste through composting. Team members collaborated with staff and faculty to teach their fellow students how to separate garbage, organics, and recyclables correctly. The team worked with Full Circle Organics to collect and compost the organic waste. Thanks to the team’s leadership, the school now diverts two to three bags of compostable material from the trash each day.

For more information on energy conservation or the Environmental Achievement Awards visit www.rpu.org.

About Rochester Public Utilities
As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 50,000 customers. Water customers number more than 37,000. RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive. Current initiatives include fuel cell research, wind power, and photovoltaic offerings.

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Posted: Jan 18, 2017 by Tony B | Comments (0)

RPU warns of unstable ice on Lake Zumbro

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) warns of the danger of unstable ice on Lake Zumbro.

RPU draws down Lake Zumbro to a level of approximately 913.0 for the winter season, to prevent damage to retaining walls and shorelines on the lake, as well as for deicing along the dam. Due to a number of factors including increased flow into Lake Zumbro and an emergency outage on a turbine at the RPU Hydroelectric Plant, RPU has not been able to reach and maintain the winter pool level.

RPU will continue to draw the lake level down to the winter pool level even as the ice sets in. The ice will continue to be dangerous because of the drawdown and the lake not being able to settle and freeze. Visible ice on the lake, especially close to shore, may be very unstable because it hasn’t had time to set at the winter pool level.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), ice is not safe to walk on until it is 4 inches in thickness.

Visit the Minnesota DNR for additional ice safety information and view the link to the ice safety level on their website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.

Real-time lake level information, along with Lake Zumbro hydro updates are available on the RPU web site (www.rpu.org). For additional information regarding the winter pool drawdown contact Todd Osweiler at 507.280.1589.

Tips for lake ice safety:

Be extremely careful during winter activities that involve Lake Zumbro such as ice fishing, snowmobiling or just walking out on the frozen lake.
Watch the weather and river flow conditions.
Ice thickness and condition can vary greatly. Be very cautious.
Look out for ice heaves and exposed logs and snags.
Be cautious in the vicinity of the dam. De-icing equipment has been installed along the upstream face of the dam resulting in open water and/or thin ice.
Do not proceed past the warning signs and buoys.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 50,000 customers. Water customers number more than 37,000. RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive. Current initiatives include fuel cell research, wind power, and photovoltaic offerings.

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Posted: Dec 19, 2016 by Tony B | Comments (0)

RPU Service Center Holiday Hours

The RPU Service Center holiday hours for Christmas and New Year’s are:

December 23- Closing at noon
December 26- Closed
December 30- Closing at noon
January 2- Closed

RPU payments can be made anytime at www.rpu.org.

Posted: Nov 28, 2016 by Tony B | Comments (0)

2017 Proposed Rate Schedule and 3.7% Overall Electric Rate Increase

rate_schedule_notification_17

Posted: Oct 27, 2016 by Tony B | Comments (0)

Lake Zumbro Hydro Drawdown Draws Near

The annual drawdown of Lake Zumbro is scheduled to begin on October 30th. The drawdown is necessary for planned maintenance and shoreline restoration work.  The public should be aware that the drawdown planned for this fall will be substantially greater than normal.  A typical fall drawdown is less than two feet; whereas this year a three foot drawdown will be attempted.  These plans are subject to change depending on rainfall and resulting runoff.  RPU’s drawdown plan is as follows:

The drawdown plan is subject to change depending on weather conditions.

During the months of November through March, Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) will attempt to maintain the lake level at the winter pool of 913.0.

Real-time lake level information, along with Lake Zumbro hydro updates are available on the RPU web site (www.rpu.org). For additional information regarding the Zumbro Hydroelectric Facility please contact Tony Benson at (507) 280-1534.

 

Tips for lake ice safety:

 

Be extremely careful during winter activities that involve Lake Zumbro such as ice fishing, snowmobiling or just walking out on the frozen lake.

Watch the weather and river flow conditions.

Ice thickness and condition can vary greatly. Be very cautious.

Look out for ice heaves and exposed logs and snags.

Be cautious in the vicinity of the dam. De-icing equipment has been installed along the upstream face of the dam resulting in open water and/or thin ice.

Do not proceed past the warning signs and buoys.

 

About Rochester Public Utilities

 

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 47,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 36,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include fuel cell research, wind power, and photovoltaic offerings.

 

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Posted: Oct 06, 2016 by Tony B | Comments (0)