Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Outstanding Partner Award – Paul Diegnau

Paul Diegnau (left) is presented an award by RWMWD's Bill Bartodziej (right)



Your ball goes into the water and the wood ducks turn, frogs leap and turtles abandon their perch on a fallen log.

Are you hitting golf balls into the lake at your cabin? No, you’re playing a full 18 holes at Keller Golf Course. Thanks to the efforts of golf course superintendent, Paul Diegnau, you’re sharing the course (or more specifically, the water hazards) with dozens of other creatures.

Keller Golf Course's hole 15 was the first restoration collaboration.
Done in 2004, this standard mow-to-shore water hazard became a beautiful and functional
habitat that quickly became seen as an amenity to the course. (Left: before / Right: after)

Paul has been with the Keller Golf Course for over 21 years. During that time, he has been able to successfully meld golf with natural resources management and has partnered on numerous ecological restoration and storm water management projects on the course. In all, 26 acres of no-play area have been restored to high-quality native habitat, and 75 percent of the runoff from the course is directed into an infiltration basin that helps to recharge groundwater.

For that, we are proud to award him with the 2016 Outstanding Partner Award. This award recognizes an individual, organization or business that effectively collaborates with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to achieve exceptional results in water resources management. 


The collaboration strategy between RWMWD and Keller Golf Course was to thoughtfully combine golf with ecological restoration and water management. It began with a single buffer area restoration around a water hazard in 2004. This area became a course amenity to both the golfers and wildlife. In 2013 and 2014, the course went through a major renovation, at which time Paul and RWMWD secured grant money to restore an additional fifteen acres of no-play area, including pond and wetland buffers, woodlands, and prairie. During that time Paul opened up the course to hundreds of local school children to learn about ecological restoration and be a part of the planting process. 

Ramsey County Master Gardeners assisted St. Paul students in the prairie restoration.

Thanks to Paul, Keller now has the most and the highest quality natural areas of any course in the Metro area. These areas compose a critical refuge within the Phalen Chain of Lakes Corridor and have earned the course status as an Audubon International Certified Golf Course.
Paul having fun at WaterFest, dressed
as a stormwater goalie.

It’s with great thanks that we celebrate his accomplishments with this award. We appreciate Paul’s partnership, his leadership, and willingness to take a chance on some very innovative ideas to improve our watershed.

Enjoy a few more photos from this award-winning course and Paul's involvement below.

Hole 5 buffer restoration with blue iris in bloom

Hole 12 buffer restoration around the large infiltration basin
with Joe pye weed in bloom

Hole 16 prairie restoration undergoing a prescribed burn
to boost native seed germination

Hole 16 a few months after the above prescribed burn
with abundant native blooms

Students working on one of the many native plantings
take a break to look for golf balls in the rough.

Hole 4 green surrounded by mature oaks and restored prairies

Construction of the large groundwater recharge infiltration basin
took place during the major 2013/2014 course renovation.

Paul (left) and RWMWD's Bill Bartodziej (right)
have a good time volunteering at our annual WaterFest.
Paul (left) at the 2016 Recognition Dinner, held at the Keller Golf
Course Clubhouse, prior to receiving an award of his own.

2016 Innovation & Engineering Excellence Award - Brad Lindaman

by Dana Larsen-Ramsay

Brad Lindaman receives award from Cliff Aichinger, retired administrator and current Board of Managers member.

Brad Lindaman has worked closely with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District for 28 years, since 1989. He has been a strong partner and supporter to former RWMWD Administrator, Cliff Aichinger. Together Brad and Cliff developed and grew the District into the cutting edge entity it is today. They have also branched out into new territory with ecosystem-wide management and upland plantings, in addition to the more traditional role of water and flood management.

Brad Lindaman (left) and RWMWD Water Quality Monitoring
Coordinator, Eric Korte, assess erosion along a creek bank

Brad has worked with his team at Barr Engineering to forge this new management style and provide the scientific background and data needed to support Watershed staff along this journey. 

As Vice President and Senior Water Resources Engineer at Barr Engineering, Brad has been a consistent influence at the Watershed, serving as the primary consulting engineer for the District. He has served as lead engineer on numerous capital improvement projects and has helped research, plan, critique and design projects, including collaboration on the development of lake management plans and golf course improvement projects, most recently, the beautifully redeveloped Keller Golf Course. 

Brad has helped lead many tours throughout the district as he is
able to easily explain complex engineering strategies to any audience.

Brad served the District during the 1990's while the District completed numerous flood-control projects and began its transition into managing more for water quality improvement with capital projects and into our recent volume-control projects and incentive programs. In this capacity, Brad has shown us that he can assemble a talented team of engineers, landscape designers and planners that are appropriate for our multi-purpose projects. 
Brad on site assessing an issue. The
wheels are always turning with this one.

Brad has assisted staff with storm water management problem-solving and with day-to-day operations. He has presented at countless meetings, visited countless sites and helped influence the solutions, improvements and enhancements accomplished within the District over the years.

Always willing to lend a hand, Brad is an adept presenter who is able to explain complex projects in terms everyone can understand. He is well-known and respected in his field and his work has benefited many communities, both within and outside the Watershed District. In addition, Brad is an enjoyable person to work with and is a valuable asset to every team! 

Brad’s talents go beyond engineering...he even helped to author and perform an amazing Watershed-customized song to celebrate Cliff’s retirement as District’s Administrator in 2014.

Since Cliff’s retirement, Brad continues to support and team with the Tina Carstens, the current RWMWD Administrator, and the Watershed staff as they continue to carry the torch, working to preserve and enhance water and natural resources, helping to improve projects and redevelopment for residents and businesses within the Watershed District.

Brad Lindaman is making a positive impact in the environment and is an outstanding innovator and excellent engineer with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. 
We are proud of his many accomplishments and delighted to award him with the Innovation and Engineering Excellence Award.

2016 Roger Lake Award for Excellence - Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson, Board of Managers member, receives his award from Tina Carstens, District Administrator

Our Roger Lake Award for Excellence is an award that we give to an individual that exemplifies the dedication of our long-time Board of Managers President, Roger Lake. We view this award as a confirmation of a high-level of dedication and commitment to the RWMWD.

This year’s award recipient is Bob Johnson. Bob was appointed to the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Board on November 5, 1986 - thirty years ago. It is fitting, therefore, that we acknowledge this long-term commitment to the District on his 30th anniversary with a prestigious award.
Bob (second from right) accepting an award in 1999 along
with the other RWMWD Board of Managers at the time

Bob served as a Board Manager from the Highwood neighborhood of St. Paul. He provided a very important representation of this area in the wake of the recent construction of the Battle Creek Flood Control Project and the concerns over neighborhood flooding and bluff land erosion. 

Shortly after his appointment, there was a significant effort expended on the study of the Fish Creek Watershed that led to a major project to stabilize the creek and its steep banks. Bob also continued to advocate for the improvement of the Lower Afton Road sub-watershed and a headwaters pond that we came to lovingly refer to as "Johnson Pond". It took a number of years for this project to rise to the top of our Capital Improvements Program, but Bob maintained a justified concern for its completion.

Bob presented retiring RWMWD Administrator, Cliff Aichinger,
with a hand-crafted "To-It Plaque" at Cliff's retirement party.

Bob served as a valuable liaison to the St. Paul District 1 Council, first as a Council Board member and later as a knowledgeable local resident with good contacts in the community. Bob has been instrumental in maintaining a good relationship with our St. Paul and Ramsey County elected representatives.

 Board members in 2012, from left to right: Paul Ellefson (retired), Jack Frost
(retired), Bob Johnson and Pam Skinner - Not pictured, Roger Lake
He continued on the Board as a strong advocate for comprehensive watershed management planning and worked closely in the development and reviews of the District's 1987, 1997, 2007 and the current draft 2017 District Plan. Bob has always served as a thorough reviewer of staff prepared materials and has kept staff and engineers always thinking about potential new approaches to addressing our water quality and quantity problems.

Bob has been an unwavering supporter of a professional District staff and our own Watershed District office and for this we are extremely grateful.

Board of Managers meet with staff and stakeholders at monthly meetings

We thank Bob for his past, current and future support and his dedication and commitment to the Board of Managers. We think Roger Lake would be extremely pleased that we are recognizing Bob with this award.

Current board members from left to right: Cliff Aichinger, Pam Skinner,
Jen Oknich, Marj Ebensteiner and Bob Johnson
Retired Board of Managers member, Paul Ellefson, (left),
with Bob Johnson, (right) at the 2016 Recognition Dinner

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Big Yellow Excavators Improve Local Fishery

By Bill Bartodziej


How can big yellow excavators improve a local fishery and create a safeguard against carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes?

Let’s back up before we answer this question.

Markham Pond is at the headwaters of the Phalen Chain of Lakes and drains into Kohlman Creek, which feeds Lake Kohlman. About six years ago, Markham Pond was identified as a carp nursery area. Thousands of carp, young and old, had the ability to migrate down into and infest the main lakes in the Phalen Chain. Carp are bottom feeders that stir up sediments, release nutrients and can negatively impact water quality. 

Markham Pond is a shallow system, with a maximum depth of four feet. During harsh winters, it’s likely that game fish species, like bluegill sunfish and largemouth bass, froze out and died. However, carp are a very resilient species and can handle winter conditions in shallow lakes and ponds.

Over the last couple of winters, Markham Pond was drawn down (or drained) in order to manage the carp population. This year, summer sampling in the pond revealed a few native fish species, like minnows, green sunfish, and bullhead, but no common carp. 
We took that as a sign that we were successful in significantly reducing carp and eliminating this threat to the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

University of Minnesota Carp Research Team
netting carp on Markham Pond
So the bad guys that threaten water quality are gone, end of story, right?

Wrong. Carp are stealthy and reproduce like crazy, and have to potential to explode in Markham again. What can we do to naturally control carp in Markham? The surprising solution was actually discovered in our watershed by the University of Minnesota’s Carp Research Team; bluegill sunfish zealously consume carp eggs, acting as a biological control mechanism. Carp have a very difficult time successfully reproducing in lake and pond systems with high bluegill populations. Thus, reintroducing a healthy bluegill population in Markham Pond will create a safeguard against the re-establishment of a substantial carp population.  
Bluegill's appetite for carp eggs should keep the carp population in check.

So how do we improve habitat for bluegill sunfish and other game fish in Markham Pond and help them survive the winter? A reasonable approach is to create a deep water refuge by excavating a wide and deep hole for game fish to hunker down in during the cold months. This fall the watershed is in the process of drawing down the pond by opening up a water control structure. A dry pond bottom will make it easier for excavators and earth moving equipment to do their work this winter.

The Plan
Pond levels are down as we intentionally lower
the lake level in anticipation of construction.

During January and February, we plan to remove accumulated sediment that has washed into the pond and create a fourteen foot deep refuge almost an acre in size. A grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will help support this work. The paved parking lot at the north end of Hazelwood Park will be used as the construction site entrance and equipment staging area.

Next spring, the pond will be filled back up again and the watershed will work with the DNR to stock game fish species. This deeper refuge area will not freeze to the bottom, even during harsh winters, and will have suitable dissolved oxygen levels for game fish.

Additional benefits of the project will include increased recreational fishing opportunities, robust aquatic plant growth, enhancement of wildlife habitat, reduced pond bottom re-suspension from carp activities and, hence, improved water quality in Markham Pond and downstream waters in the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

So when you drive by Markham Pond this winter and see big yellow backhoes digging away, be assured that this work will help to improve our fisheries and preserve the water quality in the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

Learn to Grow Native!

By Sage Passi

Harmony Learning Center Adult ESL
 student models a cardinal flower mask
 at a Watershed District Office tour.

Photo credit: Sage Passi

Big River Big Woods, a Wild Ones Chapter in the East Metro area of the Twin Cities, partnered with our Watershed District, along with their sister organization, Twin Cites Wild Ones, for a showing of the film "Hometown Habitat" at the Ramsey County Roseville Library in late October.

The film emphasized how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems. Nearly eighty people watched this documentary that tells the story of projects around the county that have energized communities to use native plants to solve a variety of issues and improve water quality.

We are excited to be building a partnership with this organization, Wild Ones. Together we can participate in the work and pleasure of promoting native plants and native landscapes.

Master Water Stewards, Linda Neilson and Hallie Finucane, hosted a table to highlight their capstone outreach project and interface with the public, providing photos of their recently completed rain gardens in Roseville, near Bennett Lake. Wild Ones members answered questions and offered resources.

Graphic from Big River Big Woods Wild Ones website

Big River Big Woods Board invites you to help their Wild Ones Chapter grow! They meet monthly. Everyone is welcome! Visit
their website for details.

Check out some of the exciting opportunities that Wild Ones is offering in the coming months.

Join Big River Big Woods for a celebration of their first year as a Wild Ones Chapter!
Thursday, November 17
Autumn Grove Park Building, 1365 Lydia Avenue W, Roseville
6:00 PM - Social time with appetizer and dessert potluck / 7:00 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Lynn Steiner in Steiner prairie;
author shot
Lynn Steiner - Garden Writer & Photographer
Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden

Learn more about responsible gardening, creating a beautiful garden where we can satisfy our love of tending plants without causing further damage to the natural world. Inspirational photos of native-plant landscapes help people get started in environmentally friendly native-plant gardening that will be attractive to birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. The program also highlights special situations where native plants are great choices, such as rain gardens, boulevard gardens, and shade.

Lynn Steiner is one of the Upper Midwest’s best-known garden writers and a frequent speaker at gardening and environmental events. She is the author and photographer of several books advocating the effective use of native plants typical home landscape. Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota, the first book designed to identify Minnesota’s native plants and plant communities and to demonstrate how to use them effectively in a typical home landscape, was a finalist in the 2006 Minnesota Book Awards in the Science and Nature Category.

Lynn’s most recent book, Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden, will be available for purchase (cash or check).

2017 Wild Ones Big Woods Meetings

Seed Exchange and Seed Sowing Workshop
Thursday, January 26
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Join us for native seed sowing and get a head start growing native plants for spring! Please save and bring quart yogurt and lids: rinse them thoroughly. If you have seeds to share, label them with common and scientific names, plus the seed source if you know it.

Design with Nature Conference—Planting Matters
Saturday, February 18

Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus

  • Douglas Tallamy—Are Introduced Plants “Bad”? Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, author of Bringing Nature Home
  • Peter Reich—Principal Investigator, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve; Senior Chair in Forest Ecology and Tree Physiology, Regents Professor University of Minnesota
  • Natalie Shanstrom—Sustainable Architect, Kestrel Design Group
  • Details coming at www.designwithnatureconference.org

Plant Identification for Everyone
Thursday, March 23

6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Katy Chakya and Peter Dzuik, from MNWildowers.info will share amazing photographs as we discover the website that they have developed for identifying Minnesota native and non-native plants.

Invasive Plants: Know Thy Enemy

Thursday, April 27
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Are invasive plants driving you mad? Discover how to identify and manage invasive plants in your yard with Kao Thao, Naturalist, Fort Snelling State Park.

Native Plant Gardening Best Practices and Projects

Thursday, May 25
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Join us for a Big River Big Woods Project Roundtable! Learn about restoration projects we are helping to sponsor and volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Share ideas on these projects and help plan next steps. The evening will begin with a presentation on the Como Park restoration and Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.

Following the presentation, the group will break out into roundtables where project coordinators will describe sponsored projects and lead discussions related to those projects.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Skip Raking this Fall

By Angie Hong
Reprinted from the blog East Metro Water, Tips and Tales about Keeping Water Clean, Nov. 1, 2016

What if someone told you that you could skip raking your leaves this fall? Sam Bauer, an assistant professor for Minnesota Extension, is spreading the word to weary Minnesotans everywhere – raking your leaves is a waste of time, do something else with your energy.

It turns out that raking leaves off of your lawn can actually be counter-productive. "The leaves have organic matter in them,” Bauer said in an interview with the Washington Post. “You're adding good organic matter to your soil when you're not picking them up." Instead of raking, Bauer recommends that you mow your lawn a few times as the leaves are falling to break them up into little pieces that decompose more rapidly. If you have a very heavy coating of leaves, you may need to remove some and add them to your gardens or compost pile, but the rest can be shredded and left where they are.

Leaves contain vital nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium that turf grass and other plants need to grow. In fact, these nutrients are the exact same ones found in compost and commercial fertilizers. Leaves, however, are free and readily available to most Minnesota homeowners. During the course of the winter, the leaves decompose under the snow and release nutrients into the soil. In addition, research at Michigan State University suggests that leaf litter can help to suppress weeds like dandelions from growing the next spring. On their own test plots at University of Minnesota, Extension experts like Bauer have found that mulching your leaves in the fall, as well as leaving grass clippings on the lawn during the rest of the year, provides enough nutrients to replace one standard application of fertilizer per year. 

While the nutrients in leaves might be good for your lawn, they can still spell trouble for local wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams when they end up in the street. Leaves wash into storm drains that connect to local waterways, and the phosphorus and nitrogen released feeds algae in the water. This contributes to more algae blooms and poorer water quality the next summer. In addition, fall rains can turn leaves in the street into a soggy mess that clogs up storm drains and contributes to localized flooding. Some people make the mistake of dumping their leaves into nearby wetlands or ravines that drain to rivers and streams, because it seems like an easy and natural way to get rid of them. Instead, the leaves send a pulse of nutrients into the wetlands and streams and can make the water turn green and slimy in the spring. For this reason, most cities have ordinances that prohibit residents from dumping leaves and other yard waste into wetlands and buffer areas.

So why do so many people rake their lawns each fall if it’s actually better to leave the leaves there? According to Bauer, people tend to do things out of habit regardless of whether they're actually useful. "Everyone thinks that your lawn needs to be watered every other day, too," he said. My advice? Skip raking the lawn and use your energy to sweep the leaves off of the driveway and out of your street instead. Also, you still need to eat your broccoli.


Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water - www.mnwcd.org/emwrep - which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine - St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Grant, Hugo, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oak Park Heights, Oakdale, Stillwater, St. Paul Park, West Lakeland, Willernie and Woodbury, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-330-8220 x.35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

To subscribe to other blogs written by Angie Hong, visit this link: East Metro Water.