Wednesday, May 15, 2013

WaterFest is Almost Here, and Bigger Than Ever!

School groups celebrate their accomplishments at WaterFest

Join us on Saturday, June 1 for our gala watershed event of the year! Families from around the Twin Cities are invited to a day of lakeside fun at WaterFest 2013.  Again this year, the City of Saint Paul is combining their “National Get Outdoors” celebration with WaterFest, so we have even more games and activities to help you get on, near, or at least within site of the water.  There are actually so many activities that the festivities will stretch from the Lake Phalen pavilion all the way down to the beach house!

Sponsored by the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, the cities of St. Paul, Maplewood, Little Canada, Roseville, Shoreview, Landfall and North St. Paul, Ramsey County, Barr Engineering and other partners, WaterFest is a celebration of our clean lakes and offers an opportunity for outdoors, hands-on learning about the water quality, wildlife, and special ecological features of our beautiful watershed.  

Here are some highlights you can expect to see:

  • Start the day with the Farnsworth Marching Band pre-fest performance (10:30 AM) followed by the schools ceremony
  • Experience the lake with Voyageur canoe and solar pontoon rides; stand up paddleboard and fishing lessons; sailing demonstrations; canoes and kayaks for checkout with a driver's license or ID and discount on paddleboat and bike rentals
  • Meet WCCO’s Matt Brickman presenting the station’s state-of-the-art, weather tracking machine (11AM-noon)
  • Participate in a fishing contest with prizes sponsored by Joe’s Sporting Goods and Asian Outdoor Heritage
  • Learn to Geocache and participate in the Geocache Discovery Hunt
  • Enjoy climbing walls, jump castle, archery, art, water games and a Raindrop Mystery Tour
  • View student artistic, scientific and service project displays
  • Learn about landscaping, shorelines, watersheds and ecosystems from professionals and receive a native plant for your yard
  • View wildlife from in and around the lake
  • See a street sweeper, snowplow and storm drain stenciling demonstrate how cleaner streets keep lakes cleaner
  • Take a guided walk highlighting the lake’s history
  • View art by local artists
  • Watch the Center for Hmong Arts & Talent Variety Show (1 PM and 3 PM)
  • Participate in lakeside yoga before (10 AM) and during WaterFest
  • Bring a swimming suit and enjoy swimming and beach activities
  • Take a photo with LEAP Frog
  • Eat from one (or more!) of several different food trucks.
  • All of this and more for FREE (with the exception of the food trucks), so skip those costly indoor parks and get your family over to Lake Phalen!
LEAP Frog and a member of the 3M
Clown Club pose with WaterFest visitors.
Our goal at WaterFest is to help families make the connection between activities in our neighborhoods and the health of local lakes, streams and wetlands, but we plan to have a little fun doing it. Everyone can play a role in protecting our water resources.

Planning to attend WaterFest? Let us know you are coming on our Facebook Event Page.

Call for Volunteers

If you're looking to do more, we're still in need for volunteers.  If you have even a couple hours from that day to give to us, we have an easy online sign up.  Simply go to, click on WaterFest and then 'Volunteer or Exhibit at WaterFest.'  After 'Register to Volunteer,' pull the drop down to the number of people you're representing and click Order Now.  You will get a list of what activities we still need help with and sign up.  You can also call event coordinator Debbie Meister (651.647.6816) for more details.

Here are just a few things that we need your talents and time for:

·  Voyageur canoe assistants (must be 16 or older or with an adult)

·  Canoe instructor (must be 16 or older)

·  Kayak instructor (must be 16 or older)

·  Wetland pool assistant (fishing game geared for young kids)

·  Kid’s fishing lessons assistant (help DNR staff with fishing lessons)

·  Putt Putt golf assistant (miniature golf with info about stormwater runoff pollutants)

·  Recycling & composting assistant (we are a 0-waste event. Eureka Recycling staff coordinates this)

·  WaterFest guide (handout WaterFest brochures)

·  Solar pontoon assistant (sign people up for rides--guide them to the boat)

·  Parking lot assistants (direct people to parking lots and provide info about our free shuttle service)

·  Volunteer refreshment area greeter (keep coffee and hot water filled)

·  Cleanup crew (4-5:30)

Thank you and we hope to see you there, rain or shine!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunfish Light Up Casey Lake

By Bill Bartodziej, District Natural Resources Specialist

Jim Levitt, DNR Fisheries Specialist prepares to release sunfish
at Casey Lake in North St. Paul

The stocking of bluegills at Casey Lake has been a long-awaited moment. Each year the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocks fish in lakes around the metro and out-state areas. They stock 40,000 bluegill sunfish a year! They released about 300 two-year-old fish (20 pounds total) at Casey Lake on May 10.
Left: Jim Levitt removes fish from the holding tank that is temperature controlled. 
Right:Levitt releases sunnies in Casey Lake
One of Minnesota's favorite fish species, the bluegill sunfish, will be a welcome addition to Casey Lake. This native species will be fun to observe along the shore, a feisty fighter with hook and line, and a ferocious carp egg consumer. The latter quality will not only help Casey Lake, but will keep this system from becoming a carp nursery, which benefits the Phalen Chain of Lakes. How so? Well, University of Minnesota research has shown that juvenile carp can become overabundant and move from small storm water ponds, like Casey, into larger lake systems, like Kohlman, Gervais, and Lake Phalen. A key to controlling carp in larger lake systems is to stop reproduction in smaller connecting ponds and wetlands. Sunfish are sensitive to low dissolved oxygen levels, especially in the winter, so an aeration system will be installed by the City of North St. Paul, the Watershed, and the MN DNR.  The goal is to have a sustainable sunfish population, which will provide an important neighborhood fishery, and at the same time, protect the Phalen Chain of Lakes from the invasive common carp.

Fingerlings (bluegill and pumpkin seed sunfish) were trap netted at
Roger's Lake in Mendota Heights.
5/15/13 Update: 200 three to four inch bass were released on Casey today.  See image below.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

May, the Month of Fishing Opener: A Look at the Fish We Eat (or Shouldn't)

by Sage Passi

I got my first taste of fishing on a big lake up north. I will always remember it - the birch trees along those long, dark, winding forest roads as we drove toward our destination in the wee hours before dawn. Sitting for hours in our boat surrounded by white curtains of fog and rolling on those interminably rocky waves. Finally, as the mist dispersed, we could see water for miles in every direction.

Left: Birch trees near Lake of the Woods.  Right: Fishing on Lake of the Woods.
Photos courtesy of the MN Historical Society

“I rose oh so early in time to see the fox chase the badger around the green bush -” It was a phrase indelibly imprinted in my four year old mind to help remember the names of the towns between my grandparents’ home, Green Bush and Lake of the Woods near the border of Canada where I first tried my hand at fishing. Hint – these are the town names: Roseau, Fox, Badger and Green Bush. I cherish those early recollections of sitting in a boat with Grandma Mabel and Bill (skip the Grandpa – he liked the familiarity of first names) and hanging out for hours in a boat with a fishing rod in hand with my grandparents and sister, reeling in those walleyes and northern pike. 

Today, the taste of crispy walleye melting in my mouth, whether it’s off my own grill or State Fair fare, still takes me back to those days when my grandma would send my sister and me home with milk cartons stuffed with our own freshly caught walleye fillets frozen in ice for the long drive home back to west central Minnesota. But since I’ve grown up I’ve wondered whether I can still safely eat the fish in Minnesota lakes and especially here in the Twin Cities lakes.

This walley on a stick was purchased at Powderhorn Park on Powderhorn Lake at the May Day celebration this year.  No this walleye on a stick wasn't caught in Powderhorn Lake, but the good news is that Powderhorn Lake was taken off the impared waters list in 2012.

Are walleyes today as safe to eat as they may have been in my childhood during the 1950’s?
The answer depends on who you are, where you fish and in some cases, the size of the fish. Read on to get to the answers.

Since May brings on the annual fishing opener for the season, it’s a good time to review the information gathered in the State of the River Report’s section about fish consumption in the Mississippi River. I’ll also provide a closer look at the Minnesota Health Department reports about fish in some of our own watershed lakes.

You may remember back in 2007 when the state reported that they had found levels of perfluorinated chemical PFOS (an industrial chemical once made by 3M Company) in several fish species in metro lakes (Lake Calhoun, Phalen, Lake Elmo etc.) prompting new fish consumption guidelines. Phalen, Gervais, Gervais Mill Pond, Round, Keller, Kohlman and Spoon Lakes in our watershed were evaluated at that time for PFOS. (St. Paul Pioneer Press article on 08/17/2007 See link at.

Since then the state has reevaluated and set Statewide Safe Eating Guidelines based on Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), PFOS and mercury levels measured in fish throughout Minnesota. While not all waters have been tested for contaminants, these guidelines can be used for both tested and untested waters. There are two types of guidelines: those for women who are or may become pregnant and children age 15 and under, and those for everybody else.

A night of fishing at Lake Phalen just after the fishing season opener.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) collaborate to assess fish, analyze the data and produce the fish consumption advisories. Each year, the DNR collects fish from lakes and rivers for testing. Minnesota has around 6,000 fishable lakes. Fish from over 1,000 lakes and streams in Minnesota have been tested for contaminants. Waters are selected for sampling where angling is popular, where there is a known or suspected pollution source, or where fish contaminant trends are being tracked. The guidelines are based on the contaminant level measured in fillets.

What are some contaminants in fish?
Mercury is found in most fish tested from Minnesota lakes. It’s a toxic metal that can impact the nervous system, particularly in children and the developing fetus. PCBs are found mainly in Lake Superior and major rivers such as the Mississippi River. PCB, a probable carcinogen, is linked to problems in infant devel­opment and adult immune function. PFOS, a type of PFC has been found in some fish in Minnesota. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are used to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water such as Scotchgard and fire foam retardants. The MPCA is investigating the sources of PFCs in fish. There are a lot of potential health risks that are under investigation. Here’s a link to some studies related to PFOS:

Fire retardant foam is one sourse of PFOS
that has contaminated the environment.
Walleye and some other predator fish such as northern pike tend to surface on the higher consumption restriction lists for both the general population and lists for pregnant women and children under 15 in urban lakes and the Mississippi River. Walleyes longer than 20 inches, northern pike longer than 30 inches and muskellunge should not be eaten either from the river or any lake in the state by pregnant women or children under 15. The explanation: bioaccumulation. The contaminants build up at a rate faster in species that consume other fish.

Follow these tips when eating fish:
While mercury and PFOS cannot be removed through cooking or cleaning (they are in the flesh of the fish), you can reduce exposure to contaminants like PCBs by removing fat when you clean and cook fish. Contaminants tend to accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish. Trim skin and fat, especially belly fat. Also, eat fewer fatty fish such as carp, catfish, and lake trout. PCBs build up in fish fat. Replace them with pan fish such as blue gills and crappie and eat smaller fish.

What are state health department recommendations for consuming fish from the Mississippi River?
There are site-specific eating guidelines in place for the metropolitan portion of the river. Different sections of the river have different consumption guidelines. When I checked this data, several species rose to the top that have the highest restrictions for the general population because of mercury levels. It’s recommended that people eat only one meal per month from the Mississippi River for these species: channel catfish, flathead catfish and white bass. This list expands to also include northern pike and walleye when you are pregnant or a child under 15. There are also quite a few species restricted to one meal per week for the general population including large-mouth bass, northern pike, small mouth bass, walleye, carp, bluegill, buffalo, crappie and freshwater drum. Please consult the tables in this link below for site-specific information. Restrictions may be due to one or more contaminants including mercury, PCB or PFOS. Site specific information is available through the Minnesota Department of Health at this link 

What are state health department recommendations for eating fish from our RWMWD lakes?
The link above provides this data for all lakes that have been tested in Minnesota.  A snapshot of that information includes a caution that walleye from Lake Phalen are not safe to be eaten by women who are or may become pregnant and children under 15. 

For a quick easy way to get your consumption guidelines, depth maps, fish species found in a lake and much more, go to DNR Lake Finder.  Simply enter in the lake you're going to and click "Get Lake Data."  You'll be given a table to link to all sorts of great information including the MDH guidelines all in one place.

In conclusion, while there are a number of species that have restrictions limiting consumption to one meal a month or none at all, there are still a lot of fish in our local watershed lakes and the Mississippi River that can be eaten without concern. But consult the consumption tables and pay attention to where you are catching them!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Welcome Aboard Janna, Tessa and Lauren, our new interns!

Each year District staff interview and select interns from a group of candidates who are looking to get their hands dirty and apply what they have been studying in school or other venues. This year, the Natural Resources and Water Quality program hired a total of three seasonal interns. Working with the Watershed District provides the interns with a way to build skills and knowledge for future career and educational directions by assisting staff in a variety of natural resources or water quality monitoring tasks and projects. Now that our new interns have had a few days to get into the stream of things, we’d like to introduce them to you and let them share some details about themselves. 

District Natural Resources Interns

Janna, Natural Resources Intern, is introduced
to macrophyte (aquatic vegetation) sampling on Kohlman Lake.
Hello, I am Janna and I am a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. I will be completing the Masters of Professional Studies in Horticulture program in the fall of 2013. I have B.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in Botany and Biological Aspects of Conservation. The combination of these majors has provided me with a multidisciplinary foundation in the natural sciences and I am excited to be putting this information to practical use throughout the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District! My primary interest is in restoration ecology and the opportunity to practically apply this interest in an urban watershed is very exciting. I look forward to all this summer has to offer!
Tessa, Natural Resources Intern, assists in a controlled
burn in the upland bufferabove Lakeside Pond in Little Canada
My name is Tessa, and I grew up in White Bear Lake, MN. In 2011, I graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth, with a degree in environmental science. Since then, I have studied and researched paleolimnology in northern Sweden and worked as an environmental educator in Alaska and in Duluth, MN. Most recently I worked for the Iowa DNR and Iowa State University as a biological field technician, surveying migratory and breeding birds. I am very happy to be back in the Twin Cities, as well as to be working with the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, as a natural resource intern. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about environmental issues that most affect the metro area, as well as to expand my knowledge of native and invasive vegetation.

District Water Quality Monitoring Intern

Lauren, District Water Quality Monitoring Intern

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am currently a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I will be graduating this May with a major in Environmental Science and a water focus, as well as a minor in Biology. For years I have been interested in water quality issues after conducting a water quality project back in high school.
I was attracted to the water quality monitoring internship because of the great level of experience the internship will provide in working within the water quality field.  I hope to work up to being a water quality technician or specialist after graduation. I really enjoy learning how the water quality of water bodies can be improved.

In my spare time I like to go bike riding on trails, volunteer with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, play the piano, and go to farmer’s markets. I recently became certified as an Erosion Control and Stormwater Inspector and hope to build on my knowledge of water issues through the RWMWD. I am excited to intern with RWMWD and hope to gain more skills in water quality monitoring and participate in many of RWMWD’s exciting projects.
Welcome new interns!  It's going to be a great summer.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring into Action: Signs of the Season in the District

By: Sage Passi

Here are some true signs of spring after such a long and fickle entry for this year's season!

1.  The arrival of spring ephemerals, and their fans.

Left: Ann Hutchinson, Lead Naturalist at Maplewood Nature Center, leads a wildflower hike at Fish Creek. 
Top middle: Merrybell rises above the oak leaf blanket along Fish Creek.  Top right: Rue anemone pops up at Fish Creek. Lower right: Ann leads a group into the Fish Creek Preserve to search for spring wildflowers.

2. The annual clean-ups get scheduled and rescheduled……………

This year despite everyone’s best efforts at organizing, many of the city clean-ups had to resort to other tactics for coordinating people to help with clean-up of city parks due to spring snowstorms and inclement weather. Two postponements for the city of St. Paul led to them respond creatively by turning to social media as a way to solicit help. They offered groups the opportunity to post their clean-ups on Facebook and win tickets to use the city’s aquatic facilities (see our News and Events tab for more details).

Patty Kamas, Business Outreach Manager at the Postal Credit Union (PCU), gives
instructions for the clean-up at North St. Paul's Environmental Learning Center. 

Each year, the Watershed District partners with the Postal Credit Union to organize a clean-up at North St. Paul's Environmental Learning Center around PCU Pond across from Target.  This year 87 Richardson third and fourth-graders teamed up with 25 Harmony Learning Center students (Randee Edmundson, teacher) to clean up the perimeter of the pond.

3.  Spring brings a flurry of new prospects for rain gardens.
Henriette Ngo-Bissoy's students at L'Etoile du Nord School remove chicken wire
that was protecting bulb plantings done last fall.  Next, they will plant native seedlings grown
by students over the winter for a legacy garden to be left for the new school that moves in next fall.

Each year the Watershed District, Maplewood Nature Center and Ramsey Conservation District partner to offer classes in rain garden construction and design. The last in the series is Wednesday, May 23.  More information and registration info here.

If you already have a rain garden, take part in our Rain Garden rewind class to get a handle on weed identification and maintenance tips for your garden. It will be held on Thursday, June 20 at Robinhood Park in Maplewood. More information here.

Class participants get a Soils 101 identification lesson to help them
determine their soil's infiltration capacity and depth for their rain garden.
Participants in earlier classes in the Stopping Water Where it Drops series had a lesson in site assessment (photo to right).  Here they are shown getting in-the-field experience at Liz Biagi's yard in North St. Paul.  Liz went through the class this year, offered her home for the demo class this spring and has begun the process of making plans for her rain garden.  She will be taking advantage of the 75% cost-share reimbursement from the District.  See our BMP Incentive Program page for details.

4.  Time to clean out those inlets and sediment traps for your rain gardens!  Doing so will make it easier for water to get into your gardens and be filtered.

Do you have one of these at the inlet to your rain garden? If so, open up your grate and remove the sediment, leaves and debris that this filtering box has collected over the fall and winter.
Even if you don't have a sediment grate as shown in the photos (most residential gardens do not have a grate), look at where the water enters the rain garden.  Remove leaves and scoop out fine sand from this area that can clog your rain garden.

5.  After months of being stuck indoors, it's time to reconnect with the earth, explore the out-of-doors and check out your local lakes and wetlands.

L'Etoile du Nord School (French Immersion) fourth-graders spent the last few months learning about issues at Ames Lake.  In late April, they finally got out to the site to see it for themselves.  One student in particular was so compelled into action during the investigative trip to Ames Lake that he spent the entire field trip on a personal mission to pick up trash (image below).  They've planned a clean-up at the lake in May and hope to do some advocacy for trash cans and recycling bins.

Left: A L'Etoile du Nord student on a clean-up mission.Top right: L'Etoile du Nord students gather by the boardwalk and remove trash in the lake.  Bottom right: Ginny Newman leads a students in a discussion.

Ginny Newman, St. Paul Community Education Service Learning Coordinator has been a loyal partner with the Watershed District for years. St. Paul Community Education supports service learning investigations, bus trips and pays for project costs for watershed school partners. In the photo of Ginny above, students document and discuss issues discovered at Ames Lake on the east side of St. Paul. The lake was restored after a shopping mall built on a former wetland and lake was removed in 2000. The area continues to be a vibrant study area for classes from the area as well as for residents who live nearby the lake.

Thanks to everyone for your stewardship actions this spring!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mystery of the Month - May

Can you guess what these innocent-looking little sprouts are?

By Carole Gernes, Ramsey County Cooperative Weed Management Area (RCCWMA)

Perhaps the author's job title hints to the plant's identity. This is a photo of an invasive plant species called Japanese knotweed.

Japanese knotweed is a perennial plant; it dies back in the fall and comes up each spring. Spring shoots look similar to asparagus, growing quickly to eight or more feet tall. It spreads by shallow rhizomes, which extend 65 feet outward from the bamboo-like stems.  

New sprouts are able to break through concrete, asphalt and break the foundations of buildings! Knotweed is spread by digging and water movement. Thick infestations can trap spring ice along streams, cause flooding and block water access. Successful removal may take several years. Contact RCCWMA for removal advice and cost share information.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On the Screen - May: A Neighborhood of Raingardens

By Sage Passi

A tour of raingardens in Powderhorn neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Photo clip from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.

In A Neighborhood of Raingardens, Mark Pedelty, journalism and mass communications professor at the University of Minnesota and Resident Fellow at the Institute of the Environment documents the story of a neighborhood in South Minneapolis around Powderhorn Lake that organizes itself to tackle water quality issues that are impacting their local lake. The film uses animation and other techniques to introduce the stormwater and pollution issues impairing the lake, then follows Metro Blooms program as neighborhood organizers and volunteers team up with 100 homeowners to plan and build raingardens in their yards to help address run-off issues. Add to the mix, the original background music of Pedelty’s band, the Hypoxic Punks and you’ve got a homegrown story that has lots of layers and messages of inspiration as well as a certain depth of realism about the hurdles and challenges underlying such a mission. You can link to this film at

Powderhorn Lake in South Minneapolis.
Photo clip from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.

The story unfolds as we get acquainted with “Super Heroes” like Metro Blooms Board member, Bob Wolk, who is one of the big “inspirers” behind the project. According to Pedelty, who narrates the film, “Bob is the kind of guy who builds an “eco wall”, uses discarded fruit cartons from grocery stores to make raised beds and sweeps up sand from the street gutters, bags it and reuses it on his driveway during the following winter. Bob even managed to convince his entire block to install rain gardens.”

Bob Wolk, board member of Metro Blooms who organized his neighbors to put in rain gardens on his block in Minneapolis near Minnehaha Creek.  Photo clip from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.

As Bob reveals, “It started when my wife and I were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary and we were looking for something we could do that could have more of a lasting effect. Metro Blooms suggested that we donate a raingarden to the city on some public land. We thought that was a good idea – the concept of a raingarden but who is going to take care of it? It perhaps would be better if it was on private property. So my wife came up with the idea of offering each of our eleven neighbors a raingarden. We served a lot of wine and got them really, really sympathetic to any idea I would propose and then said, 'How would you like to have a raingarden?' And they said, 'Wow that’s a great idea'…at least most of them did. A couple of them were hesitant but after we met with them all eleven of them got on board." 

Bob concludes, “We had a big party with our nearest and dearest friends and we put in eleven raingardens in two and a half hours. It really bonded us together. It’s a safer community now. It’s a more integrated community. And I think only because of the gardens because people don’t just walk by the house, they stop and they talk to us. It’s also great for the ego.”

Here’s a link to the story of their project

Clockwise from top left: Bob at his rain garden. Raingardens on Bob Wolk's block. Bob's (to the left) celebrates with his neighbors after they install 11 rain gardens on their block. Maturing rain garden in bloom.
Photo clips from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.
So Metro Blooms tried to do for a large urban neighborhood what Bob did for his block – transform it into a neighborhood of raingardens. It would take hundreds of people working together to bring that vision to a neighborhood sized watershed. The work began with a group of dedicated high school students – the Mississippi Green team, who are connected to the Minneapolis Park Board. They conducted an audit of the test and control neighborhoods, walking the neighborhoods looking at people’s yards, assessing the pervious and impervious surfaces, looking at where people’s downspouts were directed and working off a checklist of items. They also helped plant the gardens.

Top left: Two members of the Mississippi Green team who did the yard audits in the Powderhorn project.
Top right: Youth from the Mississippi River Green team who helped plant the rain gardens.
Bottom: Sharon Calloway, a rain garden homeowner in the project.

Photo clips from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.

In the film, one of the Powderhorn homeowners who had a raingarden installed in her yard, Sharon Calloway provides testimony about her decision to get involved in the rain garden project. 

“My mother came to this neighborhood in 1963. She loved the outdoors. For her it was about healing. She felt greenery and flowers brought healing to your soul, healing to your body. She loved for us to be in the yard. I can tell you that my mother always thought it was important to give back to the environment to make it beautiful. She loved planting. She could make something that was dead come alive.”

Sharon continues to share her reasons for installing a raingarden, “I heard about the raingarden project through my neighbor, Carol. She said, “Because your mother spent so much time outside, let’s do this in her memory.”

With Minnesota Conservation crew hard at work in the background Calloway concludes, "I know that my mother is very happy. She is smiling because we are remembering her in a special way in the environment, giving back to this neighborhood that she loved so well.”

Left: A Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) team working in Sharon Calloway's yard to construct a rain garden.
Right: Slogan on the back of an MCC crew member.
Photo clips from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty.

After being inspired by the film, I did some follow up research to learn about the outcomes of this project and what else has been done to improve the water in Powderhorn Lake to make it more enjoyable and healthy for the residents in the neighborhood and the animals who reside there. I live not too far from there, and take walks there occasionally. I love observing the bird life especially the resident egret, heron and night crown herons on the island. I attend the annual Heart of the Beast May Day Celebration in the park along its shores each spring and have been observing some of these improvements over the years. I was glad to learn of some of the outcomes resulting from the combined efforts of the City of Minneapolis, the Park Department and Metro Blooms Neighborhood of Raingardens project.

Here’s what I discovered:

After rain water coming from 56,000 square feet of impervious surface was re-directed into raingardens, the Neighborhood of Raingardens project saw a 21% decrease in run-off in its first year. This project tops off a series of other steps implemented by the city and park department over the last decade including: the installation of a treatment program that uses centrifugal force to separate trash, sediment and other pollutants in the stormwater going into this lake, the use of barley straw bales along the shoreline to cut down algae and the stocking of channel catfish that eat the sunfish that stir up sediment on the bottom of the lake. Water clarity and aquatic vegetation have improved over time.

The positive results: Powderhorn Lake was taken off Minnesota’s impaired waters list in 2012. That’s quite an accomplishment for a neighborhood and its partners. Here’s a model that other communities can learn from and consider trying out. For more information you can go to

Left: Black-crowned night-heron at Powderhorn Lake.
Middle: Mark Pedelty (left), film producer with his band, the Hypoxic Punks.
Right: A great blue heron at Powderhorn Lake (Photo from A Neighborhood of Raingardens by Mark Pedelty).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cliff Notes - May

Want the abridged version of what some of our staff are doing this month? This week we highlight Bill Bartodziej, Natural Resources Specialist, and Eric Korte, Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator, and have them do just that in 120 words or less.

Left: Bill and Simba Blood do site assessment at the Ponds of Battle Creek
Golf Course.  Right:  Bill lighting a controlled burn.

Bill Bartodziej, Natural Resources Specialist, had the pleasure of speaking at the Lake Wabasso Association meeting on May 8th. Bill was very impressed with the enthusiasm and knowledge of the members. Bill discussed aquatic plant monitoring, shore restoration, carp management, and an update on zebra mussels. Members discussed their aquatic plant observations, where and when carp move in their system, and some ideas on what native plant species work well along the shore. This spring, the Natural Resources team will be partnering with the city of St. Paul and Ramsey County on ecological restoration projects centering on Keller and Phalen Golf Courses and Round Lake by Lake Phalen. Spring burns are underway, and seeding and planting will soon follow.

Left: Eric smokes some carp caught during one of the winter seinings. 
Right: Eric collecting water samples on Tanners Lake.
Eric Korte, Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator, is working on getting all of our monitoring equipment installed along with the Water Quality crew. "We have equipment all over the district monitoring raingardens, creeks, lake levels, and rainfall. Also we will be taking grab samples from our District lakes to test them for chlorides to see the effect of salting the streets has on our lakes. In June we will begin to start taking samples from our lakes to test them for phosphorus, chlorophyll and clarity. We will continue to take lake samples until the end of September."