Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Memory Filled Send-off: Honoring Cliff Aichinger

By Sage Passi and Carrie Magnuson

Cliff and his wife, Anne, at his standing-room-only retirement party.

It was a quite a celebration in the Sky Box at Grumpy’s on December 2 in Roseville where we honored the achievements of Cliff Aichinger, our recently retired Watershed District Administrator whose last day at the office was on November 28. After 26 years of dedicated fulltime service to the District, we hoped to throw him a retirement party worthy of his legacy.


The room was at capacity with people from all over the state who had been positively affected by Cliff’s tenure. His entire family was there as well, some having flown in as a surprise a few days before. The air was thick with conversation, joy, laughter, and well wishes.

Cliff’s friends and colleagues presented him with beautiful and creative gifts, both physical pieces of art, and with their words of gratitude and encouragement.

There was even a musical tribute.  Feeling inspired a week or so before Cliff’s send off party, a creative cadre of Watershed staff (Carrie, Tina, Sage and Paige), and interns Zola and Wyatt teamed up under the direction of Erin Anderson-Wenz with some of her other talented cohorts at Barr Engineering (Greg Nelson, Nathan Capeau and Cory Anderson) to craft a musical send-off. Several Barr staff met secretly behind closed doors to write a clever lyrical version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Who Will Stop the Rain?” Then we converged in a couple practices to ramp up our musical talents in order to perform this tribute song for Cliff at his party. A few of us had to dust off our instruments after a long hiatus since high school, but it was jolly good fun and it was all good!

The musical tribute composed of BARR Engineering staff and RWMWD staff and interns. 
Watch a video of the performances for our customized version of "Who Will Stop the Rain" by CCR
by clicking HERE, and our more casual cover of "Take it Easy" by clicking HERE.

For those that want to sing along with the video links (see the caption above), or just to hear what happens when you mix CCR with CLIFF, here were the creative lyrics:

 Who’ll Stop the Rain?
A song for Cliff Aichinger, on the occasion of his retirement

Long as I remember, Cliff's been comin' round.
Fighting runoff washin' pollution off the ground.
A good man through the ages.
Tryin' to lead the way.
Cliff's retiring, we're inquiring..
Who'll stop the rain?

Many times I've stood out, watchin' water from the storm
Running down to lakes and streams, sure to do them harm.
Nonpoint source pollution,
Bound to have its way,
But Cliff never quitted, he retrofitted...
He stopped the rain.

Cliff, he never rested, there was so much to do
Parking lots and roadways, and carp evictions, too.
His 10-year plans and CIPs
Stop runoff before the drains.
Cliff never abated, he collaborated
He stopped the rain.

Heard the singers playin' down at the WaterFest,
Celebrating water, the District at its best.
Celebrating nature
Celebrating change
Cliff's retiring, but he's inspiring...
We'll stop the rain.


Paige Ahlborg offered this commentary on the event:
“As staff, we all knew how important Cliff was to our organization. He kept things running smoothly, was always available to discuss anything no matter how small the issue, and offered new ways to challenge us. Cliff’s enthusiasm, persistence, and proactive thinking made RWMWD what it is today.
During Cliff’s retirement party, it was apparent that we were not the only ones who noticed these qualities over the years. Many stories were shared as we gathered to reflect on his career. The stories were told with laughter and a few tears but always with a fondness for the man who has been the face of RWMWD for 34 years. 
Left: In lieu of a 'normal' guest book, folks signed their well-wishes into an illustrated book of golf courses.  Middle and Right: Listening humbly as people applauded his work.

"Cliff has inspired so many people in the industry from college students who worked as summer interns to administrators of other watershed districts to directors of state agencies. It was wonderful to see all of these people come together to celebrate Cliff as he begins his next journey into retirement. Anyone who has ever had the honor of working with Cliff knows we all have big shoes to fill as we follow in his footsteps to carry on his legacy. “

-Paige Ahlborg, RWMWD Project Manger

Here are some other testimonials from people who have worked with Cliff over the years who offered their vantage points during the retirement party program. There are also some photos we’ve included from some memorable moments during the evening.

Bob Johnson, RWMWD Board Member

Bob Johnson, long time Board Member, presented Cliff (and his wife, Anne) with a framed "Round-To-It" to help them keep track of all of those pesky tasks and projects that Cliff just hasn't 'gotten around to' before his retirement. Bob also presented Anne with her own color of post it notes to write on and attach to the Round-To-It, and insisted that those were priority. 

Glenn Skuta, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Surface Water Monitoring Manager

“Cliff and the RWMWD have always been fantastic partners to work with. On the professional level, I knew I could always count on Cliff to lend a hand when I needed him. For example, when EPA was coming to town and wanted to tour some Section 319 project sites, I called on Cliff and he set it up. 

When I wanted my staff to see what were then somewhat newer stormwater technologies like rain gardens, pervious pavement and green roofs, I brought them to the RWMWD office where Cliff got those BMPs implemented. When the State Fair Eco Experience staff wanted to do a display on watershed management including a map of a real world watershed, we contacted RWMWD and worked it out. Cliff and his staff have made RWMWD one of the top water management organizations in the state.

On a personal level, our family moved into the District in Oakdale in the mid-1990s. We’ve been beneficiaries of Cliff’s work ever since. I remember our family going to Tanners Lake in 1996 and the lake being pretty green and not very good for swimming. We did not go back for years until I heard that the District had been working to improve the lake with near shore wetlands and the stormwater alum treatment system that continues to operate today. The lake rebounded incredibly well thanks to the work of the District. Cliff also implemented good education events that our family participated in over the years – like Waterfest at Tanners Lake and later at Lake Phalen, and the Maplewood Mall project celebration.

All these successes are in large part due to Cliff’s vision and hard work. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Cliff as a partner over the years. Thanks, Cliff! Well done!”

Sharon Lotthammer, MPCA Environmental Information Section Manager

"I had the good fortune to meet Cliff early in my career. He showed me what a talented and committed individual -- and a great local organization -- can accomplish, and he has been a mentor and a resource to me ever since.

As I was listening to the many comments during Cliff's celebration, it struck me that I am not at all alone in seeing Cliff as a role model and a mentor. He has encouraged and supported so many of us! Beyond all the fantastic work Cliff has done for the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, and Minnesota's water resources as a whole, is his legacy as a mentor and role model. Which means that any success that we have as individuals or collectively is Cliff's success, as well!"


Virginia Gaynor, Natural Resources Coordinator, City of Maplewood

Ginny Gaynor and staff member with the City of Maplewood, expressed gratitude for the great partnership Cliff fostered between Maplewood and RWMWD.

“I feel very fortunate to have been working for Maplewood when Cliff was District Administrator. Cliff brought so many innovative projects to our city, which helped Maplewood move forward on environmental issues. For myself and many of my colleague, it’s been personally and professionally rewarding to work on cutting edge projects with the District’s talented team.”


John Jaschke, Executive Director, Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR)

"From my perspective - and from that of many other state leaders - Cliff’s excellence was always evident where it mattered most, leading the RWMWD. However, his role in improving, pushing and leading at the regional, state and even national levels progressed the science and the art of watershed management in many other places. Cliff was a model of purpose and effectiveness and his many contributions will live on via his influence on so many others."

There were many other touching presentations including 
  • Ray Bohn (Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts, MAWD), Mark Doneux (Capitol Region Watershed District), Matt Moore (South Washington Watershed District), and Mike Kinney (Comfort Lake Forest Lake Watershed District) who on behalf of MAWD, presented Cliff with a beautiful desk clock. 
    Tracey Galowitz
  • A subset of Minnesota MAWD, the District Administrators Group from Metro MAWD also presented Cliff with stunning glass raindrop sculpture. 
  • Tracey Galowitz, RWMWD Attorney from Lawson Law Firm, joked that Cliff's relentless ability to find compromise and speak with diplomacy made for a lack of billable hours for her and her team.
  • Tina Carstens, Current District Administrator at RWMWD, presented Cliff with a new set of golf clubs on behalf of the staff at RWMWD, staff at BARR Engineering, and staff at Lawson Law Firm.
  • Dana Larsen-Ramsay added to the sentiment and to the golf club set by gifting Cliff a driver on behalf of the RWMWD Citizen Advisory Commission and Landscape Ecology Awards Program (LEAP).
Left: Ray Bohn presenting Cliff with a desk clock on behalf of Mn MAWD.  Right: Mark Doneux presenting Cliff with a glass raindrop sculpture on behalf of Metro MAWD Administrators Group.

Left: A set of new golf clubs was gifted by staff at RWMWD, staff at BARR Engineering, and staff at Lawson Law Firm. 
Right: Dana Larsen-Ramsay presents Cliff with a new driver to go with the set of clubs. 

From the Watershed Team Cliff Put Together

Prior to this larger retirement party, the staff at RWMWD threw a pot luck lunch in the office as Cliff's last day of work approached.  Their words spoke volumes of how appreciative and inspired they were by his leadership.  Here are a few excerpts from the card he received.
"It has been a privilege for me to be part of the District staff serving under your direction. Thank you for all the support you have shown me through the years. I sincerely wish you and Anne ALL THE BEST!"

"You leave a legacy of encouragement, achievement and work ethic that will always be a part of us – us a team and as individuals. Thank you for always having an open door and a few minute to spare. Wishing you happiness and health in your next big adventure." 

"Thank you for all of your support at RCCWMA and of me personally. I feel you have been a visionary champion in the fight against invasives in the district. You’ve always been positive, helpful and friendly, a great calming influence during times of stress. Best wishes for your retirement!"
Cliff's retirement pot luck lunch.
"Thank you for your great leadership and for always having time to discuss any issues that have come up over the years…no matter how busy you are. I have learned a lot! Good lock and enjoy!"

"Congratulations on an outstanding career! The water resources of the area are truly better because of your vision and leadership. Thank you for allowing me the privilege to work alongside and for you for the past 25 years. I appreciate all you’ve taught me and the fun we’ve shared together too. You are a great mentor, colleague and friend."

"It’s been an honor to work with you. I have learned an immense amount over the years. I am proud to be an RWMWD employee. I am proud of all The District has accomplished and a huge part of that is because of you. Enjoy retirement!"

"You have given me my first professional position out of college and for that I feel extremely grateful and lucky. I’ve gotten to know you over the last couple years and have benefited immensely from all you have to teach and the knowledge you possess. Congratulations on such a successful career! You will be very missed." 

"It is quite an accomplishment how well the Watershed District has developed under your leadership. I am sure I will use my experiences here as a model for how an organization should function throughout my career. Enjoy every bit of your retirement!"

"Congrats on such a truly amazing career. It is obvious of how you have made the Watershed a better place. But in addition, you have set an example of how “a watershed” should function in the state of Minnesota. Your leadership has, no doubt, significantly improved water management on a state level. You did this in a way that made staff contribute, learn, and have fun! – The trifecta! Thanks for your leadership, friendship and just being such a quality person.'

"Wishing you the brightest time of your life! I’m glad to have had these months to get to know you. It’s been an honor!"

"You will be missed each day you are not in the office. I have truly been blessed to have been hired here and be under your leadership. I have learned so much from you in so many ways. I also thank you for your open door policy … no matter how much you had on your plate, you always took time to listen. Congratulations!"

"I hear stories reverberating out of all corners of our Watershed singing your praises and I join in that! What a chorus and a concert you have generated over the nearly 30 years of your work here. This time together with us has been such a rich blend of learning, growing and casting a wide and varied net to reap so many blessings for our community with you at the helm to guide, inspire and encourage us. I feel so blessed to be able be able to work together to put our resources and ideas to work toward the resolution of problems and the empowerment of the community with your guidance and inspiration. I am always amazed at the wisdom, courage and creativity you bring to so many of the challenges and consider it my most valuable gift to be able to have worked with you and learned from you. May your next part of the journey give you great satisfaction and the inspiration you truly deserve."

"It has been such a privilege to work as a part of this amazing team you have assembled and nurtured through the years. Your clear vision and focus on significant achievements in water management is inspiring. Your compassionate flexibility as a manager has informed a wonderful atmosphere of collaboration in the District. Thank you so much for your excellent leadership and being an example we can aspire to. Enjoy every moment but please don’t be a stranger!"

A Thank You Message from the Man of the Hour

Following the retirement party, we received a message from Cliff:

"I can't thank you enough for the party and the fantastic retirement gifts. I was blown away by the turnout of staff, Board, colleagues, and friends.

I was very humbled by the comments and well wishes. The number if people attending just blew me away. The gift of the music was absolutely unbelievable. It was very creative and fun.

I can't thank you enough for the generous retirement gift of the golf clubs. It was totally unexpected. I will think of all of you every time I play or practice.

I will cherish the memory of the party forever. You will all experience this someday, but I always thought about my legacy. I wanted to leave a mark as a result of my work. I knew we did some great things, but this gathering made the extent of my career impacts apparent and it was very gratifying.

Thanks for giving me the send off and allowing me to see the people who valued my time with the District and my accomplishments. It was particularly humbling see the response to Shannon Lotthammer’s request for people to raise their hands if they felt I had served as a mentor to them.”

-Cliff Aichinger, December 3, 2014

Left: Laughing with guests.  Right: Board members Pam Skinner, Paul Ellefson, and Bob Johnson. 

Left: Some of Cliff's family that came to the festivities from near and far.  Right: Cliff, Paul Ellefson (RWMWD Board President), and Tina Carstens (RWMWD Administrator)

Watch for an article in upcoming Ripple Effect blog entries with more of Cliff's thoughts and reflections on his career.

Cliff has passed on the baton to Tina Carstens who is now the District’s new administrator. We wish her the best and look forward to working together as a team under her new leadership. As we reminisce on the celebration and on the sentiments said, we have much to praise and thank for Cliff’s longtime visionary leadership!

Carp Research Wraps Up for the Holidays

By: Bill Bartodziej

The University of Minnesota research project on common carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes is now complete. Key products from this effort:

  1. We reduced the adult carp population in the Chain by over 50% - down to 58 pounds per acre. This meets our goal of having the adult population under 90 pounds per acre where negative water quality impacts are evident.
  2. Carp spawn in the main lakes, but bluegill sunfish effectively eat carp eggs, and this limits the number of young carp being produced in the lakes.
  3. We found several carp nursery areas that drain into the Phalen Chain of Lakes (with thousands of young carp). Small carp from these systems can find their way into the Chain. These systems will be actively managed to eliminate carp over the next several years.
  4. Several science journal articles have been written on this work. Data is being shared with researchers and managers on an international level.    

Map showing carp nursery areas that drain into the Phalen Chain of Lakes. The red highlighted waters indicate carp nursery hot spots.  (YOY = Yong of Year Carp)

The U of MN research team and Watershed staff are in the process of finalizing a carp management plan for the Chain. This is a long-term plan with components that are already being carried out by Watershed staff. 

No Carp Netting this Year?

So although winter netting under the ice on Lake Gervais is exciting, fun, and full of the “wow” factor, we have come to the point where the adult carp population is at a relatively low level. Water quality impacts from a population this size is not a concern.

However, this doesn’t mean that our work is done. An extremely vital component in the carp management plan is to keep young carp from finding their way into the Chain’s main lakes. Thus, we are shifting our efforts and going after the young carp in the target nursery areas, specifically Casey Lake, Markham Pond, and the Interstate Ponds. This is less impressive work on the surface, but a very critical component in keeping carp levels low in the Phalen Chain. 

Casey Lake Management

Over the last couple of years, we have been able to eliminate carp in Casey Lake. This was identified as a carp nursery hot spot. We have worked with the DNR and the City of North St. Paul to stock bluegill, and aerate this system over the winter. This effort will have direct positive impacts on Casey’s fishery and water quality. At the same time, we eliminated a significant source of carp that were threatening the entire Chain. 

With the aeration system in place, open water can now be seen in the middle of Casey Lake - December 2014.

On Markham Pond

This winter, we are working to eliminate carp in Markham Pond. Under a DNR permit, we began a draw-down of the system this fall. We were able to lower the pond level by about three feet. The maximum depth of the pond is four feet, mainly by the west end near the pond outlet.

During one of our upcoming severe January or February arctic blasts, we plan to pump the remaining water (under the ice) out of Markham, with the goal of freezing out the deeper pockets. Carp taking refuge in these areas will likely be eliminated. Once all of the carp are gone, we will partner with DNR and the city to stock bluegill and install an aeration system. This will safeguard against a carp re-infestation.

Again, this is definitely not as interesting as pulling nets under the ice on Lake Gervais, but it is very important work that will have lasting benefits to the entire Chain of Lakes.

After the draw-down, a large school of carp taking refuge in a deeper spot in Markham Pond - November 2014.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 LEAP Awards Honors Exemplary Landscapes

A hundred thirty leaders, partners and volunteers joined the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to honor winners of the 2014 LEAP (Landscape Ecology Awards Program) and the Watershed Excellence awards at a recognition dinner held at Keller Golf Course Clubhouse in Maplewood on November 19.

What is LEAP?

LEAP recognizes private, public and commercial landowners in the Watershed District that use good land management practices to preserve and improve water quality and natural resources. Dana Larsen-Ramsay and Mark Gernes, LEAP co-chairs since its inception 13 years ago, presented the awards to four private landowners in Little Canada, Maplewood and White Bear Lake. Cliff Aichinger, who recently retired after 26 years as the District’s administrator, received special recognition for his visionary leadership.

And the Winners Are.......(in no particular order)

Eric Netteberg and Julie Wrase of 636 Labore Rd in Little Canada installed a prairie using 100% native Minnesota plants on their 2.5 acre yard. Motivated by not wanting to mow turf grass and wanting to attract birds, pollinators and other wildlife, the Netteberg-Wrases embarked on an experiment to replace their lawn with wild plants.  Eric noted “the prairie changes from year to year and season to season.”

In the first year they reported seeing an increase in wildlife and now routinely see fox, turkeys, hawks, groundhogs and other birds and butterflies. 

Left: The Netteberg-Wrase prairie turned a mowed lawn into pollinator heaven. 
Right: Eric and Julie receiving their LEAP award.

“When it rains and the rain garden fills
with water, we’ve been able to successfully
demonstrate to our neighbor that our
run-off will not flood his property.”
- Debbie Ledvina

Matt & Debbie Ledvina of 1173 Lakewood Drive S in Maplewood involved the entire family in installing a raingarden to capture runoff from the street and have it seep naturally into the ground. The Ledvinas worked with the city of Maplewood in 2012 to design the raingarden with a curb cut and a deep hole called a “sump” to increase infiltration. Matt completed much of the hard physical work including excavating the garden and adding boulders to form a retaining wall.

Not only can Debbie explain how her rain garden works, but she has a practical demonstration in her front yard. Through the process of building the raingarden, their kids also learned “how we deal with our environment.”

Left: The Ledvina's rain garden with mature, native vegetation is a stunning site.
Right: Debbie Ledvina included two of her manual laborers, her son and daughter, when accepting the award. 

Jackie and Steve St. Germain of 2503 Stillwater Rd E in Maplewood installed raingardens to capture and treat yard and street runoff. Jackie—the self proclaimed gardener— removed much of the front lawn and replaced it with a cottage garden. She used over 15 species of native flowers and added whimsical touches such as teacup sculptures.

“Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees provide a natural show in front of our window almost everyday,” says Jackie.

“I have a sense of peace and calm.” 

Left: The St. Germain's cottage garden welcomes visitors (human, insects, and small wildlife) to the front yard.
Right: Jackie (in purple) and her friend, Joy Hogenson, accepting the LEAP award. 

The Doffing's blog,

documents the design, construction and results.

After building a home on an undeveloped site at 3420 Midland Ave in White Bear Lake, Dennis and Sharon Doffing realized they had stormwater runoff and erosion issues.  After attending a raingarden workshop and reading The Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens, they designed and built three raingardens to capture runoff from their house. They were so excited with the results that they installed a fourth one using District cost-share funds. This 300 square foot raingarden captures and holds 3,000 gallons of water without overtopping.
Left: Flooding on the Doffing's property motivated them to take action.
Right: Dennis and Sharon accepting their LEAP award.
Recently retired District Administrator Cliff Aichinger was recognized for his long-term support of the LEAP Team and LEAP Program.




Cliff expressed great pride in the program, calling the LEAP Team “a collection of fantastic people.”


LEAP winners received a $25 gift certificate from Prairie Moon, a Lake Phalen Shoreland Restoration Walking Tour and Plant Guide, artisan birdbaths made by the LEAP Team and a LEAP sign. The LEAP Team is composed of citizen volunteers, who manage this program and conduct all judging for the awards. For more information about the LEAP and Cost Share programs, visit the District website at www.

Many thanks to the LEAP team from this year and years past for the hard work they do to find, explore, and honor those in the Watershed doing big things for clean water on their own properties.

For a summary of those winning the Watershed Excellence Awards on the same evening the LEAP awards were given, follow the link HERE.

2014 Watershed Excellence Awards Recognize Clean Water Heroes

Award winners received this beautiful blown-glass art piece with their names engraved in the cherry wood. 
Watch the January eNewsletter for an article featuring the artist who created these.

A hundred thirty leaders, partners and volunteers joined the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to honor winners of the 2014 LEAP (Landscape Ecology Awards Program) and the Watershed Excellence awards at a recognition dinner held at Keller Golf Course Clubhouse in Maplewood on November 19.

What are the Watershed Excellence Awards?

Watershed Excellence Awards recognize individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the Watershed District. At this second annual award presentation event, seven leaders were recognized with five awards: this year’s awards honor Youth Engagement, Outstanding Partner, Roger Lake Stewardship, Buckie and Visionary Leadership. Recipients received a glass paperweight designed and handcrafted by Minneapolis artist Eric Sommers.

And the Winners of the 2014 Awards Are.....

The Youth Engagement Award  : Ginny Newman and Bev Blomgren,

Left: Ginny Newman instructs her students at Ames Lake south of Lake Phalen. Middle: Ginny and Bev accept the Youth Engagement Award.  Right: Bev discusses wildlife with her students.
The Youth Engagement Award went to Bev Blomgren and Ginny Newman, both recently retired from St. Paul Public Schools Community Education. Both have partnered with the District since the late 1990s to engage thousands of St. Paul youth in watershed-based service learning projects. They have provided large sums of money in grants and support to cover bus transportation, school garden demonstration projects, education projects, neighborhood raingarden construction and shoreline restoration.

Strong advocates for watershed education at the school district level, Bev and Ginny also worked very hard to encourage teachers to make watershed awareness a part of classroom curriculum.

Bev and Ginny have fostered community involvement on projects around the District including the Lake Phalen, Keller and Keller Golf Course restorations and church raingarden projects.

Ginny’s specialty is helping students see the big picture to understand watershed issues and address them creatively. Bev brings her Master Naturalist training, visionary capacity and ability to integrate service learning through the arts to engage students and the community. The award was presented by District Watershed Education Specialist Sage Passi and Citizen Advisory Committee member Jill Danner.

The Outstanding Partner Award  : Brian Nelson

Left: Brian working with students to plant native prairie plants at the Carol Matheys Center for Children & Families in Oakdale.  Right: Brian accepts the Outstanding Partner Award.

Brian Nelson of Nelco Landscaping was awarded the Outstanding Partner Award. As the landscaping contractor for the Carol Matheys Center for Children & Families in Oakdale, Brian not only designed and installed a raingarden and pavers for the center, but involved the children and their families in the planting and learning about stormwater, raingardens and plants. He helped the center “become stewards of the landscape.” 

Brian also worked with the Washington Conservation District to design landscape features in their new office in Oakdale, including a pervious green “overflow” parking lot with an adjacent bioretention basin and native plantings.

Brian credited his work experience with Metro Blooms and the influences of his mentor Rusty Schmidt and others in the field with helping him shift his priorities to “working on sustainable projects that have the capacity to reap positive impacts a hundred years down the road from now.” District Permit Coordinator Paige Ahlborg presented the award.

The Roger Lake Stewardship Award  : Glenda Mooney

Left: Glenda helps us plant shoreline and emergent plants in the rain!  Middle: A surprised Glenda accepts the Roger Lake Stewardship Award.  Right: 'Ribbit!' Glenda's amazing self-designed and hand-made frog costume has become a mascot for the LEAP program, and for the District as a whole.  Here she is at Waterfest with an excited group of kids.
Glenda was presented this award for the significant and long-term role she has played in watershed management and demonstrated leadership in natural resources stewardship.

A retired teacher from White Bear Lake, Glenda has been active in the watershed for the past 21 years. As a founding member of the District’s first citizen advisory committee, she helped author the District’s 50 Year Vision for natural resources. While serving on the Natural Resources Board, Watershed Advisory Commission and Citizen Advisory Committee, she has been instrumental in developing many programs and projects such as LEAP, the Environmental Forum and WaterFest.

She has brought her knowledge about watersheds and natural resources management to the City of White Bear Lake where she served on the Planning Commission for 17 years. But Glenda’s most noted contribution is her creation of LEAP Frog—the District’s first and only mascot! From the design to the sewing, to the many hours she has “played” LEAP frog, Glenda has brought hundreds of children into District events and made people laugh, inquire, wonder and learn about water and animals.

“Ribbit,” said Glenda in accepting the award from LEAP Team co-chair Dana Larsen-Ramsay. “I have added a lot of time and energy and it always pays off. Watershed District people have been a pleasure to work with.”

The Buckie Award  : Dave and Donna Nelson

Left: Dave and Donna tirelessly pulling invasive plants. Right: Dave and Donna accepting the Buckie Award.  Linda Nielson (left) holds a buckthorn gavel that Dave created.
Dave and Donna earned this award for their dedication to controlling buckthorn, an invasive plant in the face of adversity. Master Naturalists since 2007, the Nelsons have dedicated many hours to transforming a buckthorn infested plot of land into Southwood Nature Preserve in North St. Paul.

Over the past seven years, they have organized many volunteer teams, coordinated Master Naturalists, personally purchased materials and equipment including a tractor, taught others and restored areas of the park with prairie plants. Since the restoration, 9 leopard frogs (not previously seen) and an owl’s nest have been spotted.

In accepting the award from Community Advisory Committee member and Master Gardener Linda Neilsen, Dave noted the important role of city support, community volunteers and other factors that helped them achieve the award. Dave has also become famous for crafting hand-turned gavels out of the buckthorn removed in this project and awarding them to others in recognition of their work to improve the environment.

The Visionary Leadership Award  : Cliff Aichinger

Left: Cliff in one of his many roles as a guide/educator to the public. 
Right: Cliff accepting the Visionary Leadership Award.
Cliff was presented this award for his strong capacity to envision, guide and manifest innovative and impactful projects and initiatives that model stewardship and water quality improvements on many scales.

Since 1989, Cliff has served as the District’s full time Administrator. Prior to that during his 12 years as a consultant for the District, he was the sole “employee,” who “did it all.” Recent exemplary projects include the development of the Living Streets plan and demonstration project in Maplewood and the Maplewood Mall Volume Reduction Retrofit project.

Throughout his career at the District Cliff has been a strong advocate and leader in education, research, planning and policy. He has built many successful partnerships on state, county, city, business and local levels which have strengthened the community’s effectiveness in protecting the watershed. Many look to Cliff as a mentor and see him as the “go-to-guy.” With Cliff's visionary leadership and dedication, the capacity and impact of the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District has been greatly expanded.

Upon receiving the award presented by District Manager Bob Johnson and the new District administrator Tina Carstens, Cliff reflected on the evolution of the District from a “one man operation” to an operation with 13 full-time staff, a model office building, and a track record of 42 completed capital improvements that provide flood control, water quality improvement and significant habitat improvement. “There are significant water management challenges in our future,” he said, “but I believe the Board and the District’s young, energetic and creative professionals are up to the challenge.”

Congratulations to our winners, nominees, and those we know and recognize make a difference in their community for clean water.

To see winners of this year’s LEAP Awards, link to that article HERE.

Thank you to those who were able to join us on this chilly evening of warm celebrations. If you missed it this year, we hope you can come next year. Heck, maybe you’ll even be on the list of those nominated or even winning an award!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On the Screen: Government Television Network (GTN) 16 Covers the Watershed Beat

By Sage Passi

Chuck Turning filming the “Grand Opening” of the Watershed District’s Parking Lot Retrofit Project at Maplewood Mall

Chuck Turning, video producer at Government Television Network (GTN) has been bringing local stories to the screen from around our Watershed District for over seven years. Chuck comments,
“The Watershed District is a great programming partner for GTN. Together we tell the stories of the people and places that are important in keeping and restoring our natural environment. Protecting our waters and restoring our groundwater is very important. I am pleased to bring these stories to our cable and online audience.”

Chuck Turning (left) from GTN16 and Paul Diegnau (right) from
Keller Golf Course.
GTN serves the communities of Maplewood, North St. Paul, Vadnais Heights, Mahtomedi, Oakdale, White Bear Lake, and several others in the east metro area. Chuck’s videos provide information about innovative changes and environmental efforts at the ground level. He has covered “hot” Watershed efforts such as the Maplewood Mall parking lot retrofit Grand Opening, invasive carp management in the Phalen Chain of Lakes and the Maplewood Extreme Green Make-over.

Thanks to Chuck we have two new videos to offer the public. One tells the story of the publicly-owned Keller Golf Course, its restoration and commitment to sustainable practices. The other film documents the research of University professor Peter Sorensen and his collaboration with RWMWD to reduce the impacts of invasive carp on local lakes.

Keller Golf Course:

Carp Wars:

Paul Diegnau, Keller Golf Course Superintendent orients a class that has come to help with the prairie restoration.
The prairie restoration effort at Keller Golf Course was shot in the fall of 2013 when several St. Paul classes assisted the Watershed District with planting. The video highlights the transformation of the golf course in the “no-play” areas. Simba Blood, the District’s Natural Resources Technician, walks and talks students through the planting process. Paul Diegnau, the Golf Course Superintendent describes their commitment to “working with nature, not against it.” He explains the golf course’s sustainable use of water and efforts to reduce stormwater run-off. 

Don Vegoe, Ramsey County Master Gardener, assists students at the Keller Golf Course planting.

There is also a short interview with Ramsey County Master Gardener, Don Vegoe who supports Watershed District schools in prairie restoration. He also restores native prairie at his farm in western Minnesota.

Carp Wars - Peter Sorensen, U of MN, Tells the Story 

Dr. Sorensen speaks to a full house of interested residents.
[A clip from Chuck's film, Carp Wars, taken at the Environmental Forum.] 

Did you miss the Watershed District's Environmental Forum talk held this year at HB Fuller?

Thanks to Chuck, this talk, CARP WARS by Dr. Peter Sorensen, fisheries biologist from the University of Minnesota is now available online.

This is Chuck’s pitch about this film:
“In Carp Wars you can learn about the battle to stop COMMON carp and other aquatic invaders from destroying diversity in our lakes and streams.

Discover the common carp’s secrets to success. Learn how researchers have uncovered this fish’s amazing survival skills, and are using carp behaviours to successfully win the fight against this adept invader in the Phalen Chain of Lakes and other waters.

Dr. Peter Sorensen will enlighten you on the fascinating research he is leading and the creative solutions his team has developed to control invasive carp. Also, learn about the unique collaboration underway at the new Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) where the University of Minnesota, the MN Dept. of Natural Resources and others strive to find biologically and economically sound ways to address the increasing number of aquatic invasive species threatening Minnesota’s waters.”

 Dana Larsen-Ramsay, naturalist and host for the forum at HB Fuller kicks off the video. She describes the nature preserve on their site in Vadnais Heights and highlights their watershed friendly practices and educational efforts.

From the Eyes of an Eagle: Where Can I Find Chuck’s Other Videos at GTN?

Here is a link to the “Our Community Partners” GTN RWMWD Channel where you can find other videos Chuck has made in collaboration with the Watershed District. These videos, uploaded on VIMEO, are accessible through GTN’s website and continue to play periodically on Cable Channel 16.

The videos listed below are accessible at this link.

“Maplewood Mall Rain Gardens Opening” covers the story of the Watershed District’s parking lot stormwater retrofits during the Grand Opening at Maplewood Mall.

Farnworth students check out the cistern at Maplewood Mall.

Chuck lugged his camera and tripod out onto the middle of the ice on Lake Gervais in Maplewood on a cold February morning to document the seining of carp.

That story comes alive in Carp Harvest.

Chuck captured some of the “Big” moments on Carp Day at Lake Gervais.

On a warm windy, spring day in 2011, I enticed Chuck to capture the transformation of a rip-rapped shoreline along Keller Lake as kids helped restore it. The story of “Restoring the Web” is told through the perspective of four Farnsworth sixth graders who narrated the video. Their class experiences on a field day on Keller Island are captured in Keller Restoration 2011. This team helped write the script and participated in its creation at a television studio at Suburban Community Channels in White Bear Lake.

Farnsworth sixth graders take the lead in telling the story about the Keller Lake restoration.
Chuck filmed them in the SCC studio.
At the end of Chuck’s Keller Golf Course video (, an eagle soars above the students gathered on the course to hear about the restoration project. Chuck stops to point up at the eagle. Why? He’s already on friendly terms with the eagles in the “neighborhood. He covered their story in another video he made for GTN, The Bald Eagle Returns to the Northeast Metro.
Two eagles squabble over a nest. Photo credit: Rusty Mathiasmeier

Thank you, Chuck! We appreciate your “eagle” eyes and your “on the ground” efforts to tell the stories in our watershed and promote environmental stewardship in our community!