Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DotMocracy at Work in the Watershed: Citizens Weigh in on the Action Plan for the Next Ten Years

By Sage Passi
Dana Larsen-Ramsay has a full sheet of dots that will soon become her
votes for specific priority actions in the Watershed.

Getting Public Input

Community Confluence participants listen to Erin Anderson Wenz
 (Barr Engineering) explain the public input gathering process.

Every ten years Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District revises its management plan to keep abreast of changes and needs to be addressed in the District. It’s a two-year process from late 2013 to the end of 2015 that has many steps. Our community has insights, values and concerns that we would like to take into account in planning our actions and strategies for the coming decade. This process is a valuable window of opportunity to renew contacts, make new ones, to dialogue, debate and reflect with citizens and decision-makers alike. We will continue to involve the public in multiple phases of this planning process and in the years to come as we implement our plan.

Marlin Rudeusch, Shoreview resident and John Schmal
 (North St. Paul) discuss issues in the watershed.

During the first phase of the public input part of this process, we held a series of public meetings in the fall of 2013 to give citizens the opportunity to offer input and insight on issues that affect our local lakes and streams. Organizing and gathering our contacts for this outreach process began back in July, 2013. This effort involved sending thousands of digital e-mail invitations and hard-copy letters to encourage residents and city and county contacts to help spread the word about providing input at these community meetings. We made phone calls, wrote articles for our Ripple Effect, other newsletters and newspapers and got the word out by putting postings on websites, Facebook and other social media.

Posters on display captured information offered by participants in
 the three fall 2013 Community Conversations held around the District.

During the fall gatherings we collected information from about 100 people who told us which lakes, streams and wetlands they visit, how they interact with them and use them, what they value about them and their issues of concern and suggested solutions. Watershed staff also met with city public works staff in each of the cities in the watershed to hear their concerns, provide updates and gain input. The Board reviewed the data we collected at those three fall meetings and provided further input.

Over 1500 brainstormed ideas and issues were gathered. Barr Engineering consultants helped us process and organize all the input to present at the public prioritizing event, the Community Confluence: Where Conversations Meet event held on January 30, 2014.

DotMocracy at the “Community Confluence” creates the stage for prioritization and decision-making about watershed issues

On the evening of January 30, despite bitter cold temperatures and the aftermath of a morning snowstorm and slippery roads, a crowd of people gathered together at Maplewood Community Center to help the District develop its focus for the management plan for the

Alex Hernandez Abreu offered beautiful
harp and cello melodies during the
Community Confluence event.
next 10 years. We were blessed by beautiful harp and cello music played by musician, Alex Hernandez Abreu who warmed our spirits, energized us and calmed our nerves! Winter driving and survival in Minnesota takes its toll!
The fifteen hundred ideas and issues gathered at the earlier Community Conversations meetings were grouped and summarized to fit into sixty two actions that fit into eight District’s goals.

Two new areas of focus, not in previous watershed plans, emerged in our input-gathering process:

  • Promote Smart Development & Redevelopment and 
  • Support Access to Water Resources. 

Who Participated?

Bill Blesner, Little Canada Mayor, prepares his ballot.

Dozens of residents from all around the District, city commission members, lakeshore property owners, a mayor, naturalists, business owners, Master Gardeners – anyone who was compelled to get involved in a democratic process of voting came together to prioritize key issues of concern and actions to address water quality and related ecological challenges. 
Scott Ramsay casts his vote.

Confluence citizens review the ballot to decide on their priority
actions for the District's 10-year management plan.

What is DotMocracy?

Eight large paper print-outs were mounted to the wall pertaining to the eight goals and sixty-two total priority actions.  Participants contemplated their choices, discussed them with other people and then finally voted by placing their sticker dots next to the priority action items they thought were most important.

At the end of the night the preliminary results were presented and there was time for questions and a brief discussion.


**********What were the results of the prioritization?**********

For a tally of the votes for each goal please follow this link. 
Serious deliberation in the voting process.

This was not a simple vote at the Confluence; a lot of thought and deliberation were visible in the crowd as people tried to make their decisions. We recognize that making choices like this is not easy, neither is the final answer. 

This vote is not the final straw. It’s only a beginning in a longer process of engaging the public in helping make water quality decisions for our Watershed District.  

Didn't get to Vote?  Do our Online Survey!

Taking attendees' suggestions to heart, if you or someone you know were not able to attend the January Community Confluence meeting or didn't know about it, we have created an online version of the DotMocracy process! Please pass the word on to anyone who works or lives in the District who has not already weighed in through this voting process to help us prioritize actions for the next ten years. We have created an online survey with the list of goals and actions to continue to gather public input.

 Here’s the link.

The survey will be open until April 15th, 2014.

What's Next in the Plan Update Process?

We will continue to gather input from our online survey, find ways to interact and engage with underrepresented groups of people through our Community Capacity Assessment project with the University of Minnesota and share our results with you later this year. Watch for an article on that U of M project in an upcoming issue of the Ripple Effect. We will be entering the technical input phase of the planning process. There will be more opportunities for the public to weigh in on the Preliminary Draft and Final Plan as time goes on. 

We’ll keep you updated along the way.

Many thanks to those who attended and for those taking the opportunity today to share your voice through the online survey. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

District Board Appoints Citizen Advisory Committee

2007 Watershed Advisory Commission members pose with a slippery cake.

On February 5, 2014, the Board of Managers appointed 23 District residents to our Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). The District has reformed the CAC after more than a year of dormancy. In previous years the District has had several advisory groups assisting the education and natural resources programs. The District Board and staff felt the need to broaden the focus of the advisory committee to provide input to the District on a variety of issues and programs and be more knowledgeable about all the District activities.

Notices were placed in newspapers, our blog and our web site to solicit applications. Our hope was to get applications from throughout the District as well as representatives from schools, churches and businesses. We received 28 applications. Several applications were from individuals that did not reside in our District. They were referred to our adjacent Watershed Districts.

Our final list of members represent 10 of our 12 cities with additional members representing schools (2), a Master Gardener, a Master Naturalist, a business representative, a representative from the Ramsey and Washington Conservation Districts, a RWMWD Board liaison and six at-large members.

The anticipated activities of the committee include
  • Receiving information and education on the programs and activities of the District.
  • Participating in the development and review of the District annual work program and budget.
  • Completing tasks as assigned by the Board of Managers.
  •  Reviewing District plans, studies and projects and provide comments.
  • Assisting District staff in public education, outreach and information activities and events.
  • Developing community contacts and gaining an understanding of community attitudes and concerns about water management issues.
  • Assisting staff in the planning and implementation of the Annual Recognition and Awards event.
  •  Participating and assisting in the planning and implementation of District tours.
  • Providing volunteer support for WaterFest.

The appointees are as follows:

           Category                                          Recommended appointment

          City Representatives  
                                                                   Shoreview                   Scott Ramsay
                                                                   Roseville                      Linda Neilson
                                                                   Little Canada              Bob Stine
                                                                   Maplewood                 Mark Gernes
                                                                   Vadnais Heights        Dana Larsen-Ramsay
                                                                   White Bear Lake        Laura Blonigan
                                                                   North St. Paul             Candy Peterson
                                                                   Oakdale                      Michele Hanson
                                                                   Woodbury                   Stephanie Wang
                                                                   St. Paul                       William Zajicek

         Conservation Districts
                                                                  Ramsey County           Mara Humphrey
                                                                  Washington County     George Weyer

         RWMWD Board Liaison               Marj Ebensteiner

        Business Representative               Denis McComas

        School Representatives                 Randee Edmundson
                                                                  Jill Danner

        Master Naturalist                            Karen Eckman

        At-Large                                          Kathryn Keefer
                                                                 Mark Satt
                                                                 Jennifer Gruetzman
                                                                 Alexander Johnson
                                                                 Karen Wold
                                                                 Hallie Finucane
                                                                 Glenda Mooney

The first meeting of the CAC has not been scheduled, but is planned for mid-March.

Mystery of the Month - February

Here at RWMWD we do lots of things that might make a device like this one useful; we make coffee, some of us make beer (at home of course), some of us use speakers and megaphones to educate, and others of us use sieves to separate macroinvertebrates from their mucky home. 

So many potential uses, but this device is not used for any one of these. Think you know what it *is* used for? 

The object in this month's Mystery of the Month is a rain gauge. 
Currently, the District manages three of these rain gauges within our boundary (65 sq. miles). They are located on our office site roof, the Maplewood Mall roof and one at the Alum Treatment Facility (located near Tanners Lake). We also monitor rain depths on the ground at our office site and at locations monitored on the website Weather Underground.
Taking a peek inside our higher-tech rain gauges.

Why do we track so many rain gauges?

Well, rain distribution and intensity can fluctuate a great deal over a very short distance. You may have noticed that the airport gets more or maybe less rain than you do in your backyard, for example.

This uneven rainfall distribution is one of the main reasons the RWMWD needs a handful of rain gauges strategically placed throughout the District. Rain data plays a vital role in water quality/quantity when determining size of a project, lake levels, flood control, creek flows, pollutant loading, estimating how much water is flowing off our streets and rooftops, and so much more.  We use this rain data a lot.

Store-bought or even home-made rain gauges are also one of the cheapest and easiest ways for you to start learning about how your yard affects the water bodies around you.  Some simple math can help you determine how much rainwater falls on your entire property each time it rains.  With a little extra work to determine the area of your 'impervious surfaces' (driveway, roof, patio, etc.) you can determine how much flows off your property untreated.  I can almost promise you'll be amazed at how many gallons it is!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Resilient Communities Project Revisits a Living Streets Approach in North St. Paul

By Sage Passi

A door that "closed" in 2012 has reopened.

In 2011 to 2012, the Watershed District and Barr Engineering worked with North St. Paul in an effort to implement a living streets project on 15th Avenue with funds appropriated through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. But after a year and a half the North St. Paul City Council chose to not approve the project.

A theoretical look at a street before (actual) and after (computerized) a proposed Living Streets project.

This year, University of Minnesota faculty, graduate and upper-level undergraduate students are collaborating with North St. Paul’s local government staff, community stakeholders, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and Valley Branch Watershed District to reexamine this approach to street design and are investigating the economic, health, environmental, and design/experiential impacts of Living Streets approaches.

The concept of Living Streets (sometimes referred to as Green Streets or Complete Streets) addresses livability and environmental needs of a community by incorporating a design approach to rebuilding streets that balances convenience for motorists with bike and pedestrian safety, water-quality protection, and the value and beauty of street trees.

The Resilient Communities Project (RCP) is an initiative of the Sustainability Faculty Network at the University of Minnesota with funding and support from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and the Institute on the Environment. RCP works with one partner community a year to develop projects based on community-identified sustainability issues and needs. This year-long partnership with North St. Paul is engaging fourteen University of Minnesota departments in these areas of study: stormwater management, water and energy conservation, density and housing options, transportation and neighborhood identities.

Watershed District staff and North St. Paul city staff/consultants with the coordination of RCP’s program manager, Mike Greco have been meeting with faculty and students in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the Department of Architecture (School of Design) and the School of Public Health to provide background and support for this semester’s Living Streets projects.

An example of a Living Streets project completed in Maplewood.

During this semester a team of University of Minnesota graduate and upper undergraduate students in the courses (“Making Sustainable Transportation Work,” “Topics in Environmental Health: Urban Ecosystems” and “Architecture: Community-Based Projects” will work to

  • document the environmental, health, economic, and design/experiential impacts of living streets approaches 
  • identify a neighborhood input process for future street reconstruction and living streets projects that can be developed as a prototype to create public understanding and buy-in 
  • develop design concepts and strategies that illustrate living streets approaches for key priority intersections, corridors and connector streets 
  • provide policy, planning and other recommendations for implementing capital improvement projects and Living Streets plans during the next 20 years.

I talked to several Public Health graduate students in Elizabeth Watenberg’s Environmental Health class on Urban Ecosystems and a student in James Wheeler’s Architecture course and asked them why they chose this course. A strong affirmation for the values of “service learning” emerged. 
Here are a few responses:

“I chose to participate in the Resilient Communities Project because it provides me with the unique opportunity to gain experience in directly applying my academic studies to improve the environmental health of communities.”

- Emily Yang, U of MN Public Health graduate student

"I signed up for this class because I was excited by the opportunity it afforded for real world, hands on, application of my graduate coursework [Public Health]. It is my hope that this collaboration demonstrates the positive impact public health can have on a community."

-Liz Narten, Translational Therapy Lab Manager, Masonic Cancer Center, U of MN

"I can see that the profession of architecture is currently going through a significant shift toward a focus on community engagement and sustainable design. In school we are taught to focus on the experience of a space, but above all we are taught to design spaces that foster human interaction. In order to learn how to design such spaces, engaging with the public is an essential component of the profession. I am taking part in this course because I want to be at the forefront of the change, leading my fellow designers into a more sustainable future."

-Rebekah Trad, U of MN architecture student
Elizabeth Watenberg's Environmental Health class on Urban Ecosystems
met with Watershed District staff to learn more about Living Streets.

In John Gulliver’s stormwater hydrology course in another Resilient Communities Project related to stormwater management in North St. Paul, civil engineering students are working with the two Watershed Districts to model pollutant loadings and evaluate the cost effectiveness of different BMPs (Best Management Practices) to reduce these loads in the downstream impaired Kohlman Lake and in Silver Lake in Valley Branch Watershed.

These projects provide a dynamic opportunity to interact and partner with University students and North St. Paul city staff in a research and community engagement initiative that picks up where the District left off in advocating for a Living Street approach and water quality friendly stormwater practices in North St. Paul. I think it’s fair to say that a steep learning curve was encountered during our efforts to make that Living Streets project come “alive.” I am glad to see that interest and energy continues to grow in exploring this approach to street design. It’s a positive direction that the city has opened the doors for University of Minnesota faculty and students to create real life learning opportunities for all involved that can help guide the city in making sustainable change in its stormwater and street redesign approaches.

North St. Paul adopted a living streets plan in 2011 to make streets more livable and accessible as the city proceeds with street reconstruction efforts during the next 20 years. The plan includes design recommendations for pavement street width, stormwater treatment, underground utilities, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and boulevard plantings. It also identifies specific street routes that should be targeted for improvements, linking major pedestrian, recreational, and other assets and amenities in the community. Let’s hope that the city can reopen that door, navigate through the process and integrate key elements of this plan in its future street projects. 

We thank the University of Minnesota for their support in helping North St. Paul investigate and make recommendations for taking this route to sustainable street and stormwater management.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Granted! RWMWD Receives Grant Funds for Clean Water Projects

The Board of Water Soil Resources (BWSR) is charged with allocating clean water project funds appropriated by the State Legislature as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment which was approved by voters in 2008. Last month, the BWSR Board approved the allocation of more than $14 million in 2014 Clean Water Fund Competitive Grants. Demand for available funds was great as BWSR received 244 applications requesting almost $52 million.

We are thrilled to announce that we applied for three Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment grants and received all three this year! We received $200,000 for our Casey Lake Neighborhood Stormwater Retrofit project. The purpose of this project is to protect Casey Lake and Kohlman Lake by installing rain gardens on priority properties surrounding Casey Lake. Construction of these rain gardens will begin this summer as we already have several residents interested in having a rain garden on their property. We also received over $100,000 for Commercial Site and School Site Assessments for Best Management Practice (BMP) Retrofit. The purpose of these projects is to identify and assess highly impervious areas within the District for retrofit BMPs that will assist the District in meeting stormwater volume and nutrient reduction goals. This study will help us determine the best locations for BMPs so we can move forward with the installation in the future.

These projects will do wonders for helping us reach our goals of improving water quality in the District. We are excited to be given the chance to move forward with these projects. Without the Clean Water Fund none of these projects could happen!

For information on other awarded projects, please visit the BWSR website:

Please visit our website (scroll down on the front page until you see a logo like the one above) for information on current grant projects and make sure to check back to see the progress we’re making with these new grants.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wakefield Lake In the Spotlight: Upcoming Public Meeting Highlights Issues, Opportunities

Wakefield Lake in the City of Maplewood, located upstream of Lake Phalen, is under the spotlight.

Wakefield Lake in relation to Lake Phalen

In 2002, Wakefield Lake was listed as having impaired water quality, with high levels of phosphorus above the State of Minnesota water quality standards. Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District has been working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to perform a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study of Wakefield Lake to understand what has been causing the problems with water quality.

As part of the study, the District has also been identifying potential opportunities to improve the lake's water quality to meet the state water quality standards. Come and raise questions and learn how you can work with the Watershed District and the cities to reduce impacts to this lake

On Monday, March 17 from 6:30 PM -8:00 PM, the community is invited to attend a public meeting to hear the results of the water quality study and learn about potential water quality improvement opportunities in Wakefield Lake and its surrounding sub-watershed. This subwatershed area includes sections of Maplewood, a small area of North St. Paul and a stretch of St. Paul. The meeting will be held in Maplewood's City Hall Council chambers at 1830 County Road B East in Maplewood. 

Please join us! For more questions please contact Tina Carstens at 651-792-7960.

This 'subwatershed' map shows the area of land that drains to Wakefield Lake.
Water then moves to Lake Phalen where it is piped to the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Raingarden Workshop Schedule


Sponsored by Cities of Maplewood, Shoreview and Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. For more information about the series, please call Sage RWMWD at 651-792-7958.

1.    A RAINGARDEN FOR YOUR YARD: Classroom Session                             

Wednesday, March 5th, 7-9 pm - preregister by February 28.
Location: Shoreview Community Center, 4580 Victoria St. North, in the Shoreview Room  
This class provides an introduction to raingardens and their purpose in improving water quality. Get inspired by the many design options in your community and then take it to the next level by participating in the site assessment and design workshops in May. Presented by Landscape Designer Joe Lochner, Ramsey Conservation District.
Thursday, May 8, 6:00 -8:00 pm. - preregister by May 5
Location: 947 Transit Ave in Roseville (a private residence) 
Learn how to analyze your site, test for soil infiltration & determine your drainage area.  Follow up this class by doing this assessment in your own yard and bring results to the next class to help in the design of your own raingarden. Taught by a landscape designer from Ramsey County.

3.    RAINGARDEN DESIGN WORKSHOP: Garden Layout & Plant Design
Tuesday, May 20th, 6:30 -8:30 pm. - preregister by May 16   
Pre-requisite: Site Assessment Session
Location: Maplewood Nature Center, 2659 7th ST. E., Maplewood, MN 55119

Use information gathered in your site assessment to design your own raingarden. Figure out how to resolve drainage issues! Get assistance on your design plan from instructors, & Master Gardeners. Bring a map of your site and the results of your infiltration test. Taught by landscape designer Joe Lochner, Ramsey Conservation District. 

Fees for any of these classes: FREE!
To register call Shelly @ 651-792-7965 at Ramsey Washington Watershed District (RWMWD) or send an e-mail to



Sponsored by: Blue Thumb, East Metro Resource Education Program, RWMWD & Washington Conservation DistrictFor more information about these classes contact Angie Hong at 651- 275-1136 x.35.

Choose one of the following dates & locations:
Tuesday, March 4th, 6-7:30pm - preregister by Feb. 28
Location: Washington Conservation District Office, 455 Hayward, Ave. N, Oakdale

Tuesday, March 11, 6-7:30 pm - preregister by March 7.
Location: Woodbury City Hall, 8301 Valley Creek Rd, Council Chambers.
Already have a raingarden but need a few tips on keeping it in tip top shape?  These are for you.

Tuesday, April 8, 6:30 – 8:00 pm,

Location: Maplewood Nature Center, 2659 E. 7th St., Maplewood, MN 55119.
Has your rain garden been overrun by weeds? Does it need a few new plants or a complete overhaul? Come get tips on how to rescue your raingarden and make it the garden of your dreams. See slides of the new plants and designs. We’ll answer questions and help you figure out where to start. Fee: FREE, but space is limited. Call (651) 249-2170 or email info[at] to register by April 3rd.

Tuesday, May 13, 6:30-7:30 pm

Location: TBD
It’s spring clean-up time for raingardens. Come learn how to cut back old vegetation, divide and transplant perennials, and prevent erosion at the inlet. We’ll also cover strategies for dealing with overly aggressive plants. Meet us in the neighborhood for this outdoor demonstration. Dress for the weather. Fee: Free, but space is limited. Call (651) 249-2170 or email info[at] to register by May 11th.

Join the Invasive Plant Patrol Early Detection Monitoring Program!

Pastinaca sativa, or wild parsnip.  Photo credit: MN Department of Agriculture.

How can you prevent buckthorn-like takeovers of new invasive plants in Ramsey County?

Grecian foxglove.  Photo by

  • Volunteer to help with this effort
  • FREE training provided
  • Hike on and off trails
  • Use GPS units; mark locations of invaders 
  •  Report plants for removal!

    Your findings will be included in a national invasive species database!

    FREE introductory program: 

    Thursday, March 20, 7:00 - 8:30 pm 
    at Maplewood Nature Center
    Register online: or by calling
    (651) 249-2170. 

     An additional training session for volunteers will be held at Maplewood Nature Center; Friday, April 11, 6:30 – 9 pm.

    Japanese knotweed (shown above) is just one of many
    plant species of emerging concern.

    Sponsored by the Ramsey County Cooperative Weed Management Area and the Maplewood Nature Center.