Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Community Conversations – A Portal Into the Watershed

By Sage Passi

Nearly a hundred residents came together in a series of Community Conversations in three locations within Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District between mid-September and early October to learn more about the history of the District, the budget, initiatives and recent accomplishments. Much of the time was devoted to getting input from participants. People reflected on how they value and interact with the District’s lakes, wetlands and creeks, identified many of their concerns and offered potential ideas about addressing watershed issues.

The meetings were held in Maplewood, Woodbury and Shoreview for the central, southeast and northeast areas of the watershed district respectively.  These gatherings were designed to help us begin the public input process in updating our management plan. Every ten years the management plan is revised to keep abreast of current issues and changing conditions in lakes, wetlands and streams. Updating the plan will spread out over the next two years. Input from the public is vital! 

People who participated in the Community Conversations were very forthcoming about the importance of lakes, wetlands and creeks in their lives and the personal value they offer. Their collected comments provide a rich portal into the relationships local residents have with water bodies in the District. Here are some quotes that help capture the feelings and connections people shared about their local water resources.

“I love the variety of wildlife. Fish, birds, waterfowl.”

“I gaze in wonder at the juxtaposition to high traffic.”

“They keep us all healthy & sustain life around us. They’re beautiful & create a sane place for people to experience nature.”

“I find value in native plants on the shoreline.”

“I value the joy of living on the lake.”

“I most value the clean, clear water and the ease of access for recreation. “ “Coming from a country that doesn’t value water, the lakes and ponds here are treasures that need to be preserved. 

“Watching wildlife on the water helps me calm down.”

“I take my grandkids fishing on the lake. “

“I love the beauty, tranquility, & peacefulness.”

“I value nature in the city with recreational opportunities.”

The pie chart below quantifies how residents who attended the meetings interact or use water resources in the Watershed District. The two top choices involve boating (including kayaking and canoeing) and a category that includes walking, hiking and running. Here’s the list we got from participants by percentage of responses. 

For a list of the top 20 visited water bodies in the District (as measured by attendees of all three meetings) see the table below. 

After sharing this personal information, the content of the evenings shifted as participants brainstormed and challenged each other to dig deeper while generating an expanded list of issues/concerns in the watershed. These exchanges generated many community concerns including invasive species, animal habitats, stormwater and other pollutants, water quality, water levels, aquatic vegetation (macrophytes), increased development/impervious surfaces and the need for education and maintenance. For a complete list of the issues and concerns raised during these sessions see the pie chart below.

A second round of small group interchanges precipitated insights and suggestions to address the problems and make improvements. Each night the discussions culminated in a large group sharing of key issues and ideas for improvement.

Here’s a break out of suggested actions/solutions/improvements that the group generated. 

Actions and solutions suggested.  Larger words were more often mentioned, smaller means less often.

The content of these meetings is being compiled and further analyzed by Watershed staff and Barr Engineering consultants to help provide public perspective and direction in the District’s management plan update process.

This series of meetings will not be the only opportunity for public input for the revisions to the management plan. Next phases of this process include fall meetings with city councils/commissions, a number of other approaches to gathering community input as well as a public summit to be held in early January 2014. Watch for announcements!

The Watershed District hopes that these conversations will provide a foundation and impetus for further dialogue, input, public involvement and stewardship as the plan unfolds, is finalized and is implemented. It was clear from our dialogues that many of the people who attended the meetings are already involved in tracking and/or working on issues and have an interest in being involved in helping to implement solutions to current or emerging problems. We look forward to more input, involvement, future conversations and actions with everyone!

Please use the comment boxes below or in our open forum to indicate any ideas you have related to your own concerns, issues, and possible solutions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Churches Hear the Calling for Clean Water

Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood is one of the churches taking action to offset their impervious space.

A house of worship is, by design, a large structure designed to welcome many people with common values. Multiply this by the number of faith communities in RWMWD and you have a lot of parking lot and rooftop space serving thousands of people ...but also creating a significant stormwater problem.
Redeeming Love Church's parking lot.

Many of these congregations are hearing the call to help protect their local lakes, and we are proud to be partnering with them to achieve our mutual goal.

By the end of October 2013, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District will have a total of ten churches in the watershed that have installed rain gardens or other Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their property. Some are partnering with us through grant programs or through our incentive program and collaborating with their local schools and congregation members to do their part.

Faith-Based Funding

This past year, RWMWD and Ramsey Conservation District were awarded a grant through the Clean Water Legacy fund to work with six faith organizations to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their property to help maintain or improve clean water. Already, two churches have stepped up and will have installed beautiful and functional stormwater features by the end of this fall.

Lakeview Lutheran garden showing the Clean Water Legacy
contribution sign.
Lakeview Lutheran Church, located in Maplewood at the intersection of Highway 61 and County Rd C, is very close to Kohlman Lake which is impaired for phosphorus. It was important that they worked to reduce the quantity and quality of stormwater coming off their site to reduce their impact on the lake. BMPs were chosen to capture and treat runoff from their roof and property to achieve this, including three rain gardens and one native planting area.

Lakeview Lutheran rain gardens and plantings.

Construction will soon begin at Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood on White Bear Avenue near Highway 36. Redeeming Love is also within the Kohlman Lake subwatershed, so similar concerns drove the design considerations. Five rain gardens will be installed on this site to capture and treat stormwater, while adding beauty and habitat to the property. 

Clockwise from problem to solution.  Upper left: a large parking lot creates a lot of runoff.  Upper right: Joe Lochner, District Landscape Designer and Conservation Technician for Ramsey Conservation District identifies a location.  Lower right: Construction begins.  Lower left: Rain garden excavation during a rainstorm (10/15/13).
The District will be collaborating with four more faith communities in 2014 and 2015 to install stormwater retrofit projects in impaired subwatersheds.

Spreading the Good Word

So what other churches are active in this kind of stewardship around the District?

Volunteers at First Hmong Church plant the first rain garden.
  • First Hmong Assembly of God Church on the east side of St. Paul recently decided to partner with the Watershed to install several rain gardens on its site. They received funds from the District’s BMP Incentive Program to create three rain gardens that were built in mid-summer this year. Volunteers from the church finished the planting of two of the gardens in the past couple of weeks. Thank you to Pastor Jerchah Heurh for his commitment to involving his congregation in this stewardship effort and the enthusiastic team of volunteers who turned out on a couple of beautiful days this month to put the finishing touches on their gardens.

Dennis Paulson (left) and Eagle Scout, Mitchell Morgan (right)
were the chief organizers facilitating Our Redeemer's rain garden
planting on May 26.
  • Thank you also to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church volunteers, Dennis Paulson, Eagle Scout Mitchell Morgan and his team of Boy Scouts and Ramsey County Master Gardeners, Linda Neilson and Carol Mason Sherrill who helped complete the planting of this church rain garden. Special kudos to Dennis for continuing to provide oversight on this garden through a challenging summer of heavy rains and drought. The new rain garden is doing great so far.

Right: Sherry Berry (left) and Shari Hamilton, two volunteers,
assess one of St. Mark's LC's rg in the summer to determine
which plants need to be added.
  • A team of volunteers at St. Mark’s Church in North St. Paul have adopted their church’s six rain gardens and are committed to the maintenance of them this year. Thank you to Shari Hamilton for coordinating this effort.  

·        A Bible School class at Cross Lutheran Church in Maplewood combined a visit to Wakefield Lake, a water quality monitoring activity and did a supplemental planting in their latest rain garden. 
·        At Hope Lutheran Church, a rain garden built in early summer 2013 is under the steadfast care and eye of Larry Cowan, a church volunteer who helped spearhead this project.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church's rain garden.

·       Christ Episcopal Church in northwest Woodbury near Valley Creek Road and Queen’s Drive will be installing a large infiltration basin, a pervious asphalt extension to their parking lot and porous paver patio off their entrance. Work on this large project will be completed this fall.

A team effort at Hope Lutheran by Ramsey County Master
Gardener, Cheri Romero (left) and Wealth Management Organization
volunteers from Shoreview, (organizer, Mary Farnham, right).

RWMWD is partnering with several other Watershed Districts in late October to facilitate a focus group with church leaders, pastors and volunteers to brainstorm ways and develop a toolkit to engage congregations in educational activities related to their BMPs and other stewardship activities.

We are humbled by the commitment and collaboration, interest and enthusiasm we’ve been met with, and hope to continue the momentum in achieving our common value of protecting water resources. 



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Harvest Time - Autumn Carp Removal

Justine Koch, U of MN, with one of the largest fish caught yet.  Could this fish be old enough to retire?!

October marks harvest season in many counties in Minnesota, including here in suburban Maplewood. The difference here is that the ‘crop’ is carp, and the harvest will breathe new life into our lakes.

Our farmers in this scenario are the U of MN Carp Research Team (see the keyword ‘carp’ in the right column for more articles). They have had great success recently harvesting thousands of pounds of carp using something called a box net enclosure. This type of enclosure requires a large 70ft by 70ft net to be submerged at a presumed carp hangout. The carp find and feast on bait corn that is placed on top of this net for days or even a week or more. When the U of MN crew determines that enough corn is disappearing fast enough, signifying the carp school has relaxed about the free meal, the cue is given to hoist the pulleys supporting the sides of the box net up to trap the carp. This has to be done in the early morning while the carp are positioned over the net, actively feeding on the corn.
The U of MN crew harvest the carp using an electrofishing boat in
the box net enclosure, now with the sides of the net above water.

It’s 4:30 a.m. on October 2nd and Justine Koch, Reid Swanson, Brett Miller, and Mary Headrick have parked the trucks on Keller Lake island in the darkness. Their early-morning actions must be stealthy in order to get the sides of the net above water without startling the fish. Once done, they must wait until the sun rises to safely harvest the fish from the large pool of water enclosed by the box net. At dawn, an electrofishing boat is used to stun the carp to the surface of the lake and a team works to net them into a boat. From there, each carp is individually assessed to see if they have fin clips, floy tags, pit tags, or radiotags. Any one of these would indicate the carp had been previously captured by the UMN team and could provide valuable information about the carp population. A subset of these fish are measured for length and fin clips are taken to further a genetic study determining what strains of carp are in the Phalen Chain and where they come from. 

Reid Swanson measures one of the largest carp caught by the U of MN research team.

Reid and Justine check each fish for signs of previous captures.

The netting was very successful. The team removed 446 carp for a total of about 3700 lbs from Keller Lake!

The box net was then moved to Gervais Lake where the team coordinated with a friendly lakeshore owner to use their property for the harvest. Another exciting catch, 227 carp totaling over 2,000 pounds were brought in with some of the largest carp we have caught to date. Three or more of the carp were over 900mm long. By comparison, one of the oldest fish previously caught and assessed during this research measured in the 800mm range and was in its 60s! Otoliths will be taken from these large fish to determine their age.

These fall nettings bring us closer to our goal of having a manageable carp population in District lakes. Many thanks to Justine, Reid, and their crew for the long, stinky, and heavy work this harvest season!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mystery of the Month - October 2013

The photo this month resembles a scary Halloween mystery. What ever could it be?

A clump of Buckminsterfullerene?

A medieval mace?

Lady Gaga’s newest headdress?

Read more to see if your guess is closer…

It’s a close-up-and-personal shot of a bur-reed seed head – Sparganium eurycarpum to be specific.  “Giant” or “broadfruit” bur-reed is the most common species of the 8 species known to occur in Minnesota. It’s a stout perennial plant that looks a bit like a very short sturdy cattail, with a fuzzy round cream-green flower that develops into the amazing seed head shown above.

Giant bur-reed is a good choice for shoreline restorations.  It grows well in shallow water and can also tolerate periods of dryness. The plants are interlaced by rhizomes, root-like extensions that produce new plant shoots. This helps them reduce shoreline erosion and spread quickly to protect the shore.  Bur-reed provides excellent fish and bird habitat, and the seeds are eaten by waterfowl. Although muskrat will eat the entire plant, in experimental plots bur-reed was the last plant selected by munching muskrat. This is an important consideration in areas where muskrat grazing can wipe out emergent plants. And of course, in the fall it will gift you with a fine assortment of miniature medieval maces!