YANKTON | Sandy Stockholm never really knew what to tell people asking where they could find the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition (MSAC).
She and other MSAC officials handed out business cards, offering their cell phone numbers and email addresses. But the organization didn't have a headquarters during its 12 years of existence.
That's all changed, as MSAC now rents space in the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center. The facility is located on the bluff about two miles south of Yankton along U.S. Highway 81.
Stockholm spent last week setting up her office, and she vows to bring in a few more finishing touches. But the MSAC executive director likes the feel of the place.
"This finally gives us a home," she told the Yankton Press & Dakotan (http://bit.ly/10Mo49t ). "When Howard Paul was our executive director, he was working out of his office in Canton. And first as public relations director, and now as executive director, I've been working out of my home in Springfield."
Stockholm sees the potential for much greater visibility for the organization, which works to raise awareness about the sediment clogging the Missouri River's arteries.
"With this new office, we will be able to maintain some sort of office hours. We will also be able to store records," she said. "And we will benefit from the foot traffic and visibility of people who pass through the visitors center."
Stockholm has already seen the impact of the new location.
"We've noticed at the wide variety of people who stop here," she said. "Just the other day, people from Minnesota and Canada noticed our office and asked questions about it. There is a multitude of people that we hope to reach with our message."
MSAC plans to start by setting office hours one day a week, but the frequency could grow in the future, Stockholm said.
"We plan to have regular office hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, starting in May," she said. "We're just a part-time organization, so if there would be another meeting for us to go to, we may need to change the schedule for our office hours that week."
The occasional schedule changes loom as a very real possibility. Stockholm and other MSAC officials host and attend a wide variety of river meetings in the tri-state region.
But even when MSAC officials aren't at the visitors center, they still benefit from the exposure their organization receives at the facility.
"The building is open seven days a week," she said. "People run into the welcome center, and we have visibility even when we aren't staffing our own office. When people come here, they can pick up brochures and find out more about us. People can also call the welcome center and ask for our office."
MSAC had been looking for a headquarters in recent months, including locations in Springfield and Yankton. However, the organization saw firsthand many of the Corps of Discovery's benefits.
"In November, we had a temporary display here at the visitors center. We had a video presentation on two Saturdays," Stockholm said. "I visited with the board of directors. The welcome center was unique, and we felt it was an opportunity to try it."
The welcome center offers a number of benefits, Stockholm said. It ties together South Dakota and Nebraska. The site overlooks Lewis and Clark Lake, Gavins Point Dam and the Missouri River. And it lies near Stockholm's job in Yankton, providing easy access for her.
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"By having an office here, we can reach out and offer more of a regional effort," she said.
The outreach includes the annual meeting, which this year will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Riverfront Event Center in downtown Yankton.
A special presentation will be provided by Tim Cowman, director of the Missouri River Institute (MRI) at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
Numerous studies have been conducted for decades on sediment accumulation in the Missouri River near the headwaters of Lewis and Clark Lake, Cowman said.
"However, this information mostly exists as engineering reports and spreadsheets of data that are intended for engineers and scientists to interpret," he said.
Cowman promises that Tuesday's presentation will offer colorful and down-to-earth information that remains "audience friendly."
"These visuals show the state of the Missouri River before Gavins Point Dam was built and how sediment accumulation transformed the area after the dam was built," he said.
The MRI has conducted its own delta surveys, combined with predicted future delta growth provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cowman said.
"(The MRI) has created a series of visualizations showing how Lewis and Clark Lake may be transformed if sedimentation continues to accumulate at current rates," he said.
When it comes to further outreach, MSAC has talked with visitors at state fairs the past two years. This year, MSAC plans to visit at least two county fairs, one in South Dakota and one in Nebraska.
"We talk about the solutions and ways to address (sediment), that something can be done," Stockholm said.
MSAC also plans more short, local talks, Stockholm said.
"Our group has seen some success with 15-minute presentations at noon meetings, especially if it's a topic that ties into their meeting and we have displays," she said.
MSAC has taken advantage of cyberspace, inviting the public to visits its website at www.msaconline.com or to email at msaconline(at)gmail.com.
And you can also check out online videos and YouTube, Stockholm said.
"It's a lot easier to reach people in their easy chairs than get them out to a special presentation on a Saturday afternoon," she said.