Thursday, May 14, 2015

Catching Up with Carp - Diving into the Next Phase

Carp catch from a large seining at Gervais Lake

As the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby”, in understanding the role of carp in our local waters.

The Watershed District is shifting gears from research to a management and monitoring approach with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past six years. Who would ever have guessed that we would arrive at this step when we first ventured into this business of trying to understand and get a handle on carp?

University of Minnesota Carp Research Team members
measuring carp: Justine Koch (left), Dr. Przemek Bajer (center),
Dr. Peter Sorensen (right)    
Photo credit U of M

The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a non-native invasive fish species to Minnesota. It is a long-lived fish (over 60 years) that is now prevalent in most metro area lakes. They are intelligent creatures with a voracious knack for survival. 

University of MN Professor Dr. Peter Sorensen
“Carp are smart and they understand the topography between the lakes. One of the things we’re learning is they will overwinter in the deep-well oxygenated lakes. They aggregate in these places and then migrate in the spring to spawn in upstream small wetland “nurseries” where native fish have a hard time surviving because of lowered levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.” - Dr. Peter Sorensen, University of Minnesota

Carp root around in lake and pond bottoms for food. They hunt down aquatic invertebrates, seeds, and other plant parts. This activity, along with carps’ excretion of nutrients, can have negative impacts on lake water quality and aquatic plant communities. Carp densities over 90 pounds per acre typically result in negative impacts to lake systems.

Kohlman Lake
Photo credit Anita Jader

What are those negative impacts? When carp stir up the bottom of a lake or pond, phosphorus from those bottom sediments can be re-suspended in the water column. This disturbance increases this nutrient’s availability to aquatic plants and algae leading to underwater plant population spikes and algae blooms. Water clarity decreases.

Algae bloom in Casey Lake in North St. Paul
during the 2007 Shoreline Restoration

As the summer season moves along, bacteria use dissolved oxygen to break
down those
decomposing plants and algae. Dissolved oxygen levels drop, impacting native fish, macroinvertebrate and other aquatic populations that need higher levels of dissolved oxygen for spawning, reproduction and survival.

What has been the Watershed District’s involvement in carp research and management in the past six years?

U of MN Carp Research Team using electro-shock boat

In 2009, the Watershed partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Sorensen Lab on an applied research project to investigate carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes. The main objectives were to: 1) determine the abundance of carp; 2) identify spawning areas; and better understand what influences carp recruitment (maturing from an egg to an adult). The watershed funded this work along with the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Casey Lake had a very large population of juvenile carp before management strategies were implemented in the last couple of years.

Over the last six years, we have made substantial progress in understanding the carp population and ecology in the Phalen Chain. Through research and management, we have reduced the adult carp density by over 60 percent, from 158 pounds per acre to 55 pounds per acre (average biomass for Kohlman, Gervais and Keller). We have located the key spawning areas in the Chain and are actively working to eliminate the juvenile carp in these systems (e.g., Casey Lake, Markham Pond and Kohlman Basin).

Bill Bartodziej,District Natural Resources Specialist,
examines juvenile carp caught in a trap at Markham Pond.

A carp barrier was installed in Kohlman Creek to keep adult carp from migrating upstream to spawn in shallow lakes and wetlands.

What are the latest plans for controlling carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes?

Emptying catch from box net trap

The Watershed will be working with a new company called Carp Solutions, LLC to continue adult carp removal on a limited basis and to monitor juvenile carp nursery areas. 

Dr. Przemek Bajer

Dr. Przemek Bajer, who worked with Dr. Sorensen, has started this company in order to provide  technical support to agencies that are managing carp on a large scale. These management services are not available through the University of Minnesota. The new Aquatic Invasive Species Center at the U of MN will only focus on research.

Natural resources staff will be working closely with Przemek and his staff to trap adult carp and to collect and process monitoring data. This effort is critical in continuing to manage carp in the Phalen Chain.

Scope of work – Summer 2015

Conduct adult carp removal in Kohlman Lake

Setting up a box net

Because of its small size and shallow depth, Kohlman Lake is especially well suited for the summer removal of adult carp to reduce their biomass in the Keller-Gervais-Kohlman system. District staff will place three box nets (30 x 30 feet) each in a different area of Kohlman Lake in August. Each net will be baited with dry corn for approximately 7-10 days to train carp to aggregate at the bait (Bajer et al. 2010). 

A box net like this one will be used on Kohlman Lake
Once corn consumption is steady, they will lift the trap early in the morning when most carp are attracted to the bait, to capture and remove them. The process will then be repeated at least one more time, involving approximately one week of baiting to attract new fish. The exact protocol will be modified depending on the behavior of the carp.

Watershed staff will help with routine baiting and check-up. Captured carp will be counted and measured for length. Their number will be subtracted from the most recent population estimate to determine the biomass of carp that remains in the lake.

Conduct surveys of potential nursery areas for age-0 carp

These surveys will be conducted in lakes Casey, Markham, Kohlman Basin, the three Owasso Basins and Willow Lake. In each lake we will set five small-mesh trap nets (Bajer et al. 2012). The nets will be set for one 24-hour period in September 2015. Captured carp will be counted and measured and the catch rate of age-0 carp will be estimated based on length structure of collected carp. While conducting these surveys, they will also record catch rates and lengths of native fish.

Modeling different management strategies for carp in Phalen Chain to guide future management

Because common carp are not damaging at low densities, aggressive efforts to suppress their populations to extremely low levels are often unnecessary and expensive. Robust population dynamics models can be used to guide carp management efforts so that management goals are met without incurring unnecessarily high costs and using most practical approaches. Alternative management scenarios can also be evaluated to develop long-term management plans.

We will modify an existing carp population dynamics model (Bajer et al. 2015). to mimic carp population dynamics in Phalen chain of Lakes. We will then use the model to evaluate the effectiveness of several plausible management strategies, including, winter seining, summer removal of adults with box net, suppression of recruitment in headwater lakes, and barriers to carp movement. Effectively processing new data will further shape the management efforts of the Watershed District.

Here are several videos that document some of the District’s efforts in carp research since 2009:
  1. The Carp Project Video - Part 1 CTV North Suburbs (2010)
  2. The Carp Project Video - Part 2 CTV North Suburbs (2010)
  3. Carp Harvest (GTN, Chuck Turning, producer)
  4. Environmental Carp Wars with Dr. Peter Sorenson, (GTN, Chuck Turning, producer)

We’ll keep you posted as time progresses in our on-going efforts to control carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes. 



Shoreview Green Community Awards 2015

By Paige Ahlborg

What makes a community green? Is it an awareness of its environmental impact or the steps taken to preserve the quality of its water? The City of Shoreview believes both those and more are the parameters of a green community. Shoreview officially recognizes residential, non-profit and commercial property owners that demonstrate Best Management Practices (BMPs) for water, energy, and general environmental initiatives. The goal of the program is to maintain the general quality of life and clean environment in the community as well as expand conservation leadership and practices throughout Shoreview.

Joe Pye-Weed and Cardinal Flower
grace this Shoreview yard.
Past award winning projects have included an installation of twenty solar panels on a residential garage roof, a shoreline buffer that filters rain water and establishes a native plant community and a geothermal heating system installed instead of a traditional gas furnace. Residential, commercial, or non-profit organization properties in Shoreview that meet full compliance of city ordinances are eligible.

Judging is based on information on the application, photos of the project and site visits for the finalists. BMPs that will be considered range from projects for improving water quality, renewable energy installation (geothermal, solar or wind), switching to off-peak energy use, innovative or effective recycling and composting efforts, green remodeling and other personal or corporate behaviors that demonstrate leadership and commitment to improving Shoreview’s environment.

More information and the application can be found on the City of Shoreview's website. Please note the application deadline is May 31, so don’t delay! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WaterFest is right around the corner! Volunteers still needed!

Farnsworth Aerospace Band at WaterFest

May 30th will be here before you know it! Be sure WaterFest is on your calendar and then invite your friends and neighbors to join you!

This free, family-oriented, annual water celebration will be held on Saturday, May 30, from 11 AM to 4 PM at Lake Phalen Park, rain or shine. Music, dance, exhibits, fishing, swimming, paddle boards, canoe rides, obstacle course, climbing wall, performers, food and much, much more are all part of this annual festival. Check out the schedule of events.

We need you!

Volunteers play an essential role in this huge event and are the key to WaterFest's success! Sign up today to volunteer at WaterFest. For those of you who've already signed up to help ... thank you! 

Join the Flash Dance at the Amphitheater at 11:00 AM!

Ellen Keane, a dance choreographer, has put together a flash dance routine just for WaterFest! 

Follow this link to learn the steps.
You don’t have be a professional dancer, just come and be ready to move, dance and have a blast!
Follow this link to watch a video that will teach you the steps. After a couple of tries, we know
you'll have the hang of all the moves!

The Flash Dance is the kick-off to our WaterFest celebration
and will be followed by a performance by the Farnsworth Marching Band. In the afternoon, the Hmong Center for Arts and Talent will host musical and dance performances and an open stage at the amphitheater from 1:00 - 3:00 pm.

Volunteers still needed in many areas!

If you haven’t already done so, please consider volunteering at WaterFest for an hour or two or even more!! We'll fill you in on what you need to know ahead of time by phone or e-mail and or even the day of WaterFest. Contact Debbie Meister to volunteer at 651-968-7130 or send her an email.

The following volunteer positions still need to be filled:

Wear a Costume!
10:30 AM - Noon for the Flash Dance
1 hour shifts available from Noon - 4:00 PM

Costume wearers needed for:
Leapfrog (hand out Leap Frog tattoos) Must be 5' 2" or less for this costume.
Emerald Ash Borer, Water Droplet, Woodsy Owl and Green Heron.

Recycling Volunteers
11:00 AM - 1:30 PM and 1:30 - 4:00 PM

Help us make WaterFest a Zero Waste event
by helping people put things where they
 need to go to be recycled, composted, etc.


Eco Arcade Assistant
1:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Help with games
inside the pavilion.

Storm Drain Goalie
1:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Help participants take the
Storm Drain Pledge and
stamp their Passports

 Fishing Lessons & Contest
11:00 AM - 1:30 PM
1:30 - 4:00 PM
Assist Hmong Outdoor Enthusiasts and Fishing-in-the-Neighborhood (FIN) by demonstrating how to fish on the pier. Assist with equipment; fishing poles, bait, etc. Help judge the fishing contest.

We hope to see you
at WaterFest!

Directions to Lake Phalen Park

Google Map Directions from any location.

WaterFest Map

From 35E:
Exit on Maryland Ave. Turn east, follow Maryland to Johnson Parkway. Turn north (left) on Johnson Parkway, then veer west (left) as Johnson becomes Wheelock Parkway. At the stop sign, turn north (right) onto Phalen Drive and follow signs to the Pavilion.

From Hwy 36:
Exit south on Hwy 61. Follow 61/Arcade to Wheelock Parkway. Turn east (left) on Wheelock Parkway (not Wheelock Ave.). At the stop sign, turn north (left) onto Phalen Drive and follow signs to the Pavilion.


New Lake Phalen Fishing Pier in the Works

The fishing pier has been removed and will be replaced with a new pier that extends
20 feet into the lake with an octagon platform.


Thanks to Bill Bartodziej, the Watershed District Natural Resources Specialist, for instigating a process that will result in the installation of a new public fishing dock on the west side of Lake Phalen this spring. The old one, heavily used by the public, fell into disrepair and was removed from the lake in 2013. Bill rallied the DNR and St. Paul Parks and Recreation and came up with a plan for how to get it funded and installed.

RWMWD is providing funding for the decking and railings, the DNR is paying $5,000 for lumber and parts and St. Paul Parks and Recreation is contributing the labor to build the dock and install it. The new dock will extend about 20 feet from the shore with a large octagon-shaped platform with a railing at the end.

The pier should be in place by the end of May, in time for the annual Lake Phalen WaterFest held on May 30 from 11 am - 4 pm at Lake Phalen Park. Both the DNR’s program, Fishing-in-the-Neighborhood and Hmong Outdoor Enthusiasts will be on hand near the new pier to help people who want to fish by providing poles, bait and friendly advice on how to fish. There will be a fishing contest from noon to 3 pm. Thank you to both these organizations for their support each year at WaterFest.

Happy fishing this summer! You can look forward to catching sunfish, crappies and an occasional bass, bullhead or perch if the catching is good!


Heads Up for Gardeners and Water-loving Friends

Looking for a close-at-hand place to buy native plants for your yard and rain garden?

The Landscape Revival — Native Plant Expo and Market on Saturday, June 6, offers gardeners one convenient location to shop for Minnesota native plants from 12 local native growers and learn how to use the plants from eight conservation organizations. Accessory products such as organic compost, rain barrels and native plant seed will also be for sale.

The goal of the Landscape Revival is to promote the use of native plants by educating the community about their benefits for wildlife habitat, pollinators and water quality. The event is sponsored by Saint Paul Audubon, Capitol Region Watershed District, Wild Ones, Blue Thumb and Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District.

The event is located at the Community Pavilion at the Roseville Cub Foods (formerly Rainbow),1201 Larpenteur Ave. West in Roseville from 9 am-3 pm. Cash and check only.

Many of us don’t think about choosing plants that are native to Minnesota when we plan our gardens. Instead, we pick plants for their color, their hardiness or how quickly they grow. But by choosing Minnesota native plants, plant species that have grown in this area for hundreds of years and are thus well adapted to our conditions, we can create spectacular gardens that are a haven for wildlife and protect our lakes and the Mississippi River.

Visit the St Paul Audubon website for a list of vendors and more details.

Want to help your faith community get more involved in water-friendly activities?

The East Metro Water Resource Education Program (EMWREP) is pleased to announce the publication of a Green Congregations Clean Water Resource webpage. It has many links to resources,  seasonal maintenance tips, activities, case studies and examples from other congregations and much more! The Watershed District is a large sponsor of EMWREP and has access to many of their tools and their staff time to help us with our education program. Thanks EMWREP!

Toolkit for Congregations

The East Metro Water Resource Education Program (EMWREP) has put together a fantastic toolkit with background information, tips for protecting water, activities, volunteer opportunities and a list of educational displays, brochures and resources that you can access for your congregation. Please share it! Here’s a link for downloading the Toolkit for Congregations.

Lakeview Lutheran received a Legacy Grant from the Watershed District for three large rain gardens.

Cost-Share Funds and Legacy Grants for Faith Communities

Contact the Watershed District’s Best Management Practices Incentive Program Coordinator if you'd like to connect your faith community with resources to install rain gardens or other BMPs (best management practices) on your grounds. Keep those large parking lots from polluting lakes, wetlands and creeks downstream.

We are currently seeking faith communities in our Watershed District for both small-scale and large-scale projects. Contact Paige Ahlborg at 612-792-7964, by E-MAIL or visit the Watershed's webpage to find out more about Commercial, Institutional and Government Projects.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Youth Outdoors Gain Experience with Conservation and Natural Resources

By Simba Blood

Youth Outdoors teens taking a break at Keller Channel

For the past two years, RWMWD has served as a project host for the Conservation Corps Minnesota’s Youth Outdoors program. Youth Outdoors offers low income urban teens (ages 15-18) an opportunity to gain experience with conservation and natural resource management projects while also learning important basic “first-job” skills.

Cleaning up leaves at Keller Lake

These young folks are organized into
crews of six youth and two Conservation Corps Minnesota crew leaders, each

working out of a different recreation center. This spring we are hosting work crews for eight out of the ten weeks of the program.

The St. Paul crews we have worked with are an ethnically-diverse group of students from Johnson and Harding High Schools, including those who identify as belonging to Hmong, Somali, Central American, African American, as well as other communities. 

Constructing brush bundles

Brush Bundles

With these young folks we have transplanted seedlings, removed trash from pond shores and stream corridors, planted sedges and flowers in restored sites, weeded invasive plants including garlic mustard and burdock, collected native flower seeds and even constructed brush bundles for use in the upcoming Keller Creek restoration.

Youth Outdoors team picking up trash

As with any teen, enthusiasm for the work varies from job-to-job, day-to-day or even minute-to-minute! Overall the groups are upbeat, engaged and enjoyable to work with. This program appears to be an excellent venue in which to connect with students who have previously not been involved in Minnesota parks and natural resources management work.

To learn more about this program, visit the Conservation Corps Minnesota webpage.