Thursday, February 19, 2015

The People Behind The Water

Holidays are all about spending time with family and friends -- whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or other holidays. It often doesn't reveal the work on unsung staff working quietly without fanfare to make sure that water arrives without interruption to your house. While families gather together for holiday festivities, the person making sure that there is water in the nearby water tank is alone in the pumping room, overseeing the pumps that ensure water pressure and water availability to hundreds of thousands of people. In the cold and snowy mornings of winter, a water main breaks, threatening to leave a block of homes without water for the day. Water crews leave the warmth of their family homes to go tend to the break and repair it with haste to allow other families to continue on with their day, uninterrupted.
Without these men and women, the simple act of turning on the faucet to pour water over the potatoes to help make a holiday meal would never happen. The dishes would go unwashed, the toilets wouldn't flush and the holiday for many would be ruined without their hard work.

How many other people do you know working on during the holidays? Probably a lot, and most of the general public probably doesn’t realize it. We are a 24/7 operation so there are always three Water Treatment and three Distribution employees on duty to operate the treatment plant and to respond to any reported field events that may occur.  This is not unique to a certain holiday season but actually occurs on every federal holiday.  These employees put their chosen profession ahead of other interests as 417,000 people are relying on them to ensure that water service is uninterrupted and any field needs are responded to in a timely manner. We can’t thank all of our employees enough for all of their work, to name a few positions:

Water Treatment Operator
Many water treatment facilities are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A Water Treatment Operator will monitor the water quality throughout the treatment processes and make changes to ensure both quality and quantity meets the expectations of the community.
Water Analyst/Chemist
Incoming water quality changes, process equipment changes and Safe Drinking Water Act testing requirements don’t take weekends and Holidays off. Water Analysts ensure regulatory compliance is met at all times.
Utility Service Operator
Water must reach our homes, restaurants, industries and businesses for use. Maintenance and operation of the water distribution system (water mains, hydrants, water pumping stations, water towers) is required to make sure water leaving the water treatment facility reaches the customer safely and reliably.
Utilities Maintenance Mechanic
Effective preventative maintenance ensures that water systems perform effectively. When equipment is in need of emergency repair or scheduling becomes an issue, a Utilities Maintenance Mechanic role is to make sure water is available around the clock.
Customer Service Employees
Have a problem with the water entering your home? Chances are a call to your local utility will be answered by a customer service employee. Customer service is unique and important to each utility. The Water System Never Sleeps.
There are many times where our employees have stopped their holiday celebrations with family to help keep your special day going. Steve Schneider, General Manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services, remembers a time when he worked during Christmas:

I personally remember a broken water main in the City of Oakdale that occurred right outside the main driveway to the church I was attending. The work to repair the main was commenced after the completion of the 10:30 PM service on Christmas Eve and was completed in time for the 7:00 AM service on Christmas morning. I am sure there were some of our employees that were inexplicably tired during the day on that December 25th

We can’t begin to thank everyone of our employees enough for all of their work and contributions throughout the years. So the next time you turn on your water faucet think of the men and women, often working alone or in the cold on holidays, who make your water possible. Remember all the professions working so you can have what you have; there are more than you know!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Minnesota Ice Fishing: Conditions and Tips

Winter in Minnesota can mean many things: blizzards, snowman building, puffy coats and woolen underwear. To many people all around the state, it also means fishing -- ice fishing, to be exact.

The act of ice fishing is simple -- drill a hole in the ice, stick your hook and bobber through, and wait for the fish to come biting-- but the art of it is an entirely different story that requires some patience, supplies, and good luck.

Ice fishing, along with many other winter activities involving ice, is encouraged only during safe conditions. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, ice must be at least 4 inches before any activity may take place on it. This specification has so far caused a bit of a rough go for some fisherman this season. Many lakes, such as Leech Lake in Cass County, have broken their surfaces under the weight of heavy vehicles.

Other lakes, such as Hanson Lake in Becker County and Blacksmith, Blue, Crappie and Newman lakes in Hubbard County, are lakes formed by pits that used to be used in mining. Since sinking, they have become filled with water, becoming new habitats for fish. Annually, they are stocked with trout, making them popular for anglers looking to snag a few fresh fish. However, fisherman are encouraged to use caution when using them. “[These lakes] are much deeper and take longer to cool down in the fall than natural lakes,” says Al Stevens, fisheries program consultant with the DNR. “As a result, the ice is usually thinner than on other lakes.”

However, most of the other 10,000+ lakes have safe enough conditions to fish. Hidden Valley Pond in Cottage Grove, MN, recently held a first-time fisher’s outing. The event was attended by Jim Levitt, a fisheries specialist with the DNR, who noted that ice fishing was “a great opportunity to really get that true Minnesota experience.” Many towns situated on lakes or deep ponds are introducing the idea of ice fishing to their residents, hoping to teach the proper safety precautions while also establishing a fun activity for families.

Fish Tales, a Minnesota Fishing Report published by Outdoors Weekly, notes that depending on the area fishermen are interested in, good catches are abound. Walleyes and panfish, such as bluegills and crappies, are the most popular species to catch during a Minnesota winter. In other areas, sauger, perch, pike, crappie, and trout are all available.

When trying to catch the perfect fish, the depth of the water you are fishing in is important, says the DNR. Bluegills and northerns prefer shallow water; walleyes often stay in deeper water. The time of day also plays a factor: bluegills and sunfish gather in schools and can be caught during the daytime, while crappies and walleyes bite best just before sundown. If you aren’t picky, northerns and trout are hungry throughout the day, just like muskies and bass.

The best place to go for all of your ice fishing needs is the Minnesota DNR’s website, which contains fishing reports, specifications, and regulations for all those interested. The ice fishing season will conclude in March/April, but fishing goes year round, as ice melts and lakes open up to warmer weather. For a closer look at the seasons, check this list.