Thursday, December 27, 2012

Celebrating a New Addition to the Family

Lake Judy in Shoreview

We are proud to announce that the RWMWD family is growing!

The District has recently expanded its boundaries to include the land area of the former Grass Lake Water Management Organization (GLWMO). This action added 8 square miles to RWMWD’s existing 56 square miles of responsibility, including parts of Roseville and Shoreview, along with 7 major lakes: Snail, Grass, Wabasso, Owasso, Emily, Judy and Bennett.

Whether you're a resident in this area or not, this expansion may bring up many questions.

Why did this merger happen?  Both Shoreview and Roseville needed to change the way expensive water management projects were funded for the land area in the former GLWMO. Previously, money for planning and projects came from the general fund from each city. As bigger water issues came to the forefront, however, it was evident that there were not enough funds available to get these important projects and programs going. This presented a problem since cities have levy limits and moving forward with these clean water projects could mean other city projects wouldn’t be funded in future years. By merging with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD), the funding source changed and the cities were able to tap into the already-existing programs at the District.

For an interactive map of the new boundary, click here.

Will this influence your property taxes?  If you live within the former GLWMO, which includes the northeast portion of Roseville and the southeastern portion of Shoreview, the short answer is yes.  These folks probably will notice a change in the estimated property tax statements mailed to them. The statement indicates an increase in the tax levy under the “Other Taxing District” section. This may look like a noticeable increase, but it's not just for the Watershed District.  If the statement included sub-categories, residents would see that it also includes other special tax programs including a levy to fund local housing and redevelopment authorities.

Residents were paying taxes to fund water management in past years, but it was not as noticeable because the funding fell under a general fund that residents were used to seeing on their tax statement.

What do these funds buy?  Understandably, residents may be wondering what they're getting with this 'changing of the guards.' Well, the increased tax levy buys us --RWMWD-- an organization with a proven implementation program and experienced staff to effectively and efficiently solve flooding issues, preserve and enhance wetlands, maintain or improve water quality and more. Without the merger, the GLWMO or cities would have had to develop another funding method to raise additional budget funds. Because $4 million would amount to an unreasonable amount of bake sales, cities would have had to cut important programs elsewhere just to raise the money.

We expect that adopting the former Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization’s lands and waters will be a beneficial addition to our family. We look forward to getting to know the residents in this new area, and are excited to help them maintain the beautiful waters they enjoy in their neighborhoods. Watch for new projects in this area in the near future! 

To get more details on the merger, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions page or feel free to contact us with your questions or concerns using the comment box below or calling 651-792-7950.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

FAQ: Grass Lake Merger, Legal and Taxation Details

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • The cities of Shoreview and Roseville were burdened with funding and managing the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization (WMO) that spanned the two cities.   These portions of both cities were not in a Watershed District.  The remainder of each city is in either Rice Creek Watershed District or the Capitol Region Watershed District.  The Grass Lake Watershed management budget funds came from each city’s general funds. 
  • BWSR is the state agency that administers the Watershed Act and the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act.  The Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act allows for the establishment of a joint powers WMO for watershed management, but these organizations are typically funded through a city’s general fund. The Surface Water Management Act also allows cities to petition the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to shift the burden to a watershed district. 
  • The Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization—a joint powers organization of cities in the watershed and mandated by the Surface Water Management Act to manage (and therefore fund) watershed improvements to meet state standards—studied the Grass Lake Watershed and created a draft management plan in 2011, and in so doing realized that management costs would be a burden to the city budgets. 
  • Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD)—a watershed management organization with direct property tax levy authority—provided administrative and technical assistance to the Grass Lake WMO in past years.  When the cities realized the need for financial and technical assistance for the WMO,  they looked to neighboring Watershed Districts.  When approached, the RWMWD expressed support for the addition of the Grass Lake WMO to its territory.

  • Both cities agreed that a more comprehensive water management program is necessary, but should be managed by an experienced organization with proven ability to manage programs and projects.  The city staff recommended to each City Council that the WMO merge with RWMWD and have future programs and projects managed and funded by the District.

  • The RWMWD levy is approximately 2.5% of a property’s total property tax.  This levy provides approximately $4 million in funds to support RWMWD staff, administrative costs, programs and capital improvement projects.

  • If you are in the Grass Lake Watershed:  You will begin to see an increased tax under a line item in Ramsey County estimated taxes labeled  “Other Taxing District.”  The money that the District will use for new clean water projects and programs is a portion of this fund. Before the merger, individual properties were still paying taxes to fund stormwater management through the GLWMO, but it was through the city tax levy (general fund).
  • If you are in the pre-merger RWMWD:  Your property tax is not affected significantly.  All costs incurred for management of the new 8 square miles of Grass Lake Watershed will be absorbed by all taxpayers in the now-expanded area of RWMWD.

  • Estimated property tax statements mailed to taxpayers by Ramsey County on November 16th show estimated property taxes for City, County, School District, Metropolitan Agencies, and Other taxing Districts.  Truth in Taxation statements for properties in the Grass Lake Watershed (located in the northeast portion of Roseville and the southeastern portion of Shoreview) show a dramatic increase in the tax levy under the “Other Taxing District” section.  That increase has several components: 
    • a levy to fund local housing and redevelopment authorities.
    • a levy to fund any other special local tax programs. 
    • a tax levy for the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD)
  • The property tax change resulted from the merging of the eight square mile Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization into the 56 square mile RWMWD. 

  • Watershed Management Organizations are required in the Twin Cities Metro Area.  These organizations can be either Joint Powers Organizations or Watershed Districts.  Both organizations are required to prepare Watershed Management Plans and implement improvements and programs to address problems identified in the plans.  Also, several additional programs are mandated by the state or federal government that must be implemented by cities or water management organizations (wetland management, impaired waters, non-degradation, and MS4).  The RWMWD works with our member cities to assist and collaborate on these programs to improve implementation and reduce costs.   Without the merger, the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization would have had to develop another funding method to raise additional budget funds.  Future property tax impacts may have been similar to the RWMWD tax.

  • Cities petition the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).  BWSR is the state agency that administers the Watershed Act and the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act.  The cities of Roseville and Shoreview petitioned BWSR to change the management responsibility from the Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization to RWMWD in order to reduce their potential city-wide tax burden for this watershed area.  Following formal approval of the merger, the District changed its boundaries to include the new territory, now totaling 64 square miles.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Sweet Sixteen and In the Driver's Seat

Have you ever wanted to help the environment but not know how, or needed approval and support rather than “go it alone?”  Sixteen months ago District staff discovered many such people around Lake Phalen.  Interests in the restored shoreline, water quality, litter control and invasive plants were frequently expressed as well as interest in outdoor recreation.  While some were already taking action on their own, support and coordination needs were frequently expressed.

In search of support and coordination opportunities, District staff held a get-acquainted picnic in August 2011, followed by brainstorming meetings that Fall, resulting in a 2012 Action Plan.   

Throughout 2012 many of the Action Plan activities were accomplished and new activities added (Girl Scout Service Projects, wood duck house maintenance, helping educate people at an event in the upper reaches of the Chain of Lakes) with the help of the District education program staff. 

Sixteen months later, the Stewards of the Phalen Chain of Lakes  (SPCOL) are taking over the driver’s seat, and moving forward with a growing foundation of local government staff on common goals, including enhancing the existing Water Trail though the Chain of Lakes as far upstream as Markham Pond and Casey Lake. 

Looking back we can see the evolution of leadership that made it possible for local leaders to discuss among themselves their Chain of Lakes Water Trail vision.

Foung leads a wildflower tour for Hmong elders at Lake Phalen
  • Foung Hawj brings a strong interest in watershed education and stewardship to the Senate floor as a newly-elected Senator.  For many years he introduced his friends to recreation on and around Lake Phalen by recruiting them for the Clean Water Dragon Boat Zaj Dej Huv Paddlers at the annual Dragon Festival.  He also drew people to similar interests through the Asian Outdoor Heritage group that he started, his Environmental and Outdoor Enthusiasts Facebook Group, and his bike and canoe trips along the Chain of Lakes. He also assisted with educating local residents about the restored shoreland plants at Lake Phalen. 
Rep. Tim Mahoney speaks at the
Phalen Park Stone Arch Bridge
Dedication at WaterFest 2012
  • Tim Mahoney, State Representative, grew up in the neighborhood, graduated from Harding High School and attended SPCOL meetings to express his vision of the Phalen-Keller Regional Park as a “recreational bonanza”  (St. Paul Legal Ledger November 3, 2008). 

    SPCOL Clean-ups team
  • Advocates of litter cleanups along the Chain of Lakes from St. Paul upstream through Maplewood met several times in 2012 to plan collaborative cleanup events.  Their efforts seek to improve the beauty and water quality along the Chain of Lakes. The group had the exciting opportunity to support local Girl Scout troops this fall during their Centennial Day of Service. On October 13th, the girls collected and removed hundreds of bags of leaves from our watershed in their effort to improve water quality.  With continued support from the Stewards of the Phalen Chain of Lakes, the troops hope to create a tradition of a fall leaf clean-up service project.  [From left to right in photo above:  St. Paul Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator Andy Rodriguez, St. Paul Public Works staff Kris Hageman, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Green Team member Dennis Paulson, cigarette butt litter collector hero Roger Svendsen, and members of the Maplewood Environmental and Natural Resources Commission.]    
MN Standup Paddleboarders stage a
cleanup along Lake Phalen during
WaterFest 2012
  • Dave and Cherie Englund sought a wide variety of ways to give their Minnesota Standup Paddleboarders opportunities to cleanup the waterways they love to explore. 
This list is just a sample of the powerful actions being done by a few visionary residents we've been involved with.  Are you a dreamer too?  Or already in the driver’s seat?  If so, share your projects and ideas in the comment box below.

Louise Watson
District Education Program

Sunday, December 23, 2012

District Receives Two Awards

The Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District received two awards from Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (MAWD) at its recent Annual Convention.  The District received the Project of the Year Award for its Maplewood Mall Runoff Reduction Retrofit Project.  The District was also a partner in the Program of the Year Award presented to the Brown’s Creek, Comfort Lake-Forest Lake, Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix, Rice Creek, Ramsey-Washington Metro, Valley Branch, and South Washington Watershed Districts for the East Metro Water Resource Education Program (EMWREP). 

RWMWD Managers and staff accept the MAWD
Project of the Year Award
The Maplewood Mall Project was a four-phase, five-year project that implemented volume reduction measures throughout the Mall’s 35-acre parking lot to infiltrate or filter the first one inch of runoff.  This project will reduce sediment loads to the watershed by at least 90% and reduce phosphorus loading by over 60%.  This innovative project included tree trenches, rain gardens, enhanced sand filters, and a stormwater cistern as well as educational and interpretive features.  The total project cost was approximately $7 million and included $3.5 million in grants from the Clean Water Fund and the 319 program through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  More information is available on the District web site at
EMWREP partners accept the MAWD
Program of the Year Award

The EMWREP program is an educational collaborative among seven east metro watershed districts with staff provided by the Washington Conservation District.  This collaborative approach provides high quality staff support in a cost-effective and efficient approach.  The program provides education and outreach to the public, municipal staff and officials, business owners, and other target audiences.  The main components of the program include general education programs and special events, weekly newspaper articles and newsletters, elected official education, and training programs for landscapers, master gardeners, engineers, city staff and contractors on various stormwater management and stewardship topics.

Cliff Aichinger
RWMWD Administrator

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Remembrance

It is with great sorrow that we acknowledge the passing of Roger Lake on November 29th.  Roger was regarded by many as the face of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District.  Roger was a constant presence for the District since his appointment to the Board of Managers in 1978.  Roger was also our long time Board President.

Roger not only served on the District Board, but was instrumental in organizing the Metro Association of Watershed Districts and served as its chair for several years.  Roger also served on the Minnesota Association of Watershed District's Board and the Metro GIS Policy Board.

Roger was very skilled at running an effective Board meeting and insuring that all Board members participated and had the opportunity to contribute to discussions and decisions.  Roger’s friendly, casual demeanor made for a comfortable and productive meeting environment.  Roger was instrumental in guiding the District’s evolution as we matured as an organization and unit of government. 

Roger will be greatly missed by the District Board, staff, watersheds throughout Minnesota and our local governments and state agencies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mystery of the Month - January

Have you been hiking a creek and noticed an orange slimy/oily goopy substance in the water?  If so, there is very good chance it is a form of iron-oxidizing bacteria.  These iron-oxidizing bacteria can generally be found in moist or saturated areas with a good amount of iron in the ground.  Generally, these ‘iron seeps’ tend to be found during the wetter months of the year, though if conditions are right they can be present year round.  A much more common place to find these bacteria is in toilets, backyard wells and other home water systems.  Iron-oxidizing bacteria are slightly different than most other bacteria because they do not require organic matter to feed; instead they flourish by combining dissolved iron with oxygen.  It is during this process that the ‘orange-slimy goop’ is made.

Are iron-oxidizing bacteria a health concern? The short answer is NO, iron bacteria are not a health concern.  However, iron bacteria can produce unpleasant tastes, stains and odors in your drinking water.  There are a couple ways to treat the bacteria.  The most common method used is physical extraction followed up by a "cleaning" treatment, with chemicals such as surfactants (soaps) or other disinfectants.  Generally, treatment is only needed in drinking water systems, to help remove unpleasant taste.

If you happen to come across any iron-oxidizing bacteria in the District (or anything else that does not look 'normal'), please call Dave Vlasin, Water Quality Technician at 651.792.7972.  He will run out, take a sample and try to figure out what it is.

David Vlasin
Water Quality Technician