Friday, April 28, 2017

Welcome to Dianne Ward, our New Board Member

The Watershed District wants to extend a warm and official welcome to Dianne Ward, our newest Board Member.

Dianne, appointed by Ramsey County, is a resident of Shoreview and a retired attorney. She joined the Board in February when longtime Board Manager Bob Johnson retired.

Dianne is a former Ramsey County Master Gardener and has a strong interest in Grass Lake and groundwater issues.

We asked Dianne a couple of questions so we could get to know her a little better.

What are your hobbies?
  • I am interested in environmental issues.
  • I enjoy spending time in nature.
  • I also enjoy spending time with my grandkids and dogs.

What are your goals while on the Board?
RWMWD is doing much good work and I hope to help accomplish all its goals. Some areas of particular interest include: 
  • Ensuring RWMWD fully incorporates the area in the former Grass Lake Watershed Management Organization into its planning and management
  • Evaluating and planning the whole District’s capacity to handle the more frequent 100-year rain events
  • Improving communication with the District’s residents

We are excited to have Dianne on our Board! 

A New Crop of Interns Have Sprung Up!


Matt Doneux - Natural Resources Intern

I am excited to begin this great opportunity working with RWMWD alongside the team of knowledgeable staff. In 2014 I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a B.S. in Biology.

I began my professional career working as an Urban Forestry Intern for the City of St. Paul where I was tasked with surveying the city trees for damage and disease. For the past year I worked on a field crew at Applied Ecological Services where I gained valuable hands-on experience in the natural resources field.

As an intern with RWMWD, I hope to broaden my knowledge in the field and continue to learn how to protect Minnesota’s natural resources. In my free time I am training for the Chicago Marathon this fall, and looking forward to a camping trip to Glacier National Park with my family this summer.


Chris Klatt - Natural Resources Intern

Despite growing up near the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and playing in its woods and streams as a kid, I moved away to begin my formal studies in environmental science, graduating with a degree in Ecology and Environmental Science from Montana State University in Bozeman

I joined the Watershed District this year after working with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, where I was researching the microbial communities associated with agricultural cropping rotations using forage legumes.

I’m happy to be back in my home bioregion, where I love facilitating land management practices that provide habitat to pollinators, maximize diversity, and create refugia for species that are caught in a bind due to habitat loss and changing climate.

FYI ... Chris' wife Carrie Taylor was a natural resources intern with RWMWD in 2015 and 2016.


Lyndsey Provos - Water Quality Intern

I’m originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout where I earned my B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Aquatic Biology and a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

I am currently attending UW-Stout for my graduate degree in Conservation Biology where I’m focusing on Limnology. My goal is to graduate in December of 2017.

I enjoy spending time at my cabin in Bayfield, Wisconsin where my family keeps our Tartan 34’ sailboat. We spend several days each summer sailing around the Apostle Islands. I also like to spend my free time rock climbing around Minnesota and Wisconsin. Interstate Park in Taylors Falls and Red Wing, Minnesota are my two favorite local areas to climb at. I have a cat named Luna and a Brittany Spaniel puppy named Izzy. 

Phalen Stewards Promote Adopt-A-Drain Program in St. Paul

BY Sage Passi

Each storm drain adoptee receives a lawn sign.

Master Water Stewards, Bill Cranford, Rachel Hanks and Phyllis Webster are test driving the Adopt-a-Drain program in a targeted East St. Paul neighborhood as their capstone project this spring. The location they are focusing on is an area near Lake Phalen that Bill and Rachel live in called the Phalen Heights neighborhood, bordered by Maryland Avenue, Arcade Street and Phalen Lake Park in the Phalen Lake sub-watershed.

The targeted Adopt-A-Drain Lake Phalen Neighborhood
The Adopt-A-Drain program invites residents to "adopt" a drain by choosing one or more storm drains near their house and commit to clearing leaves and trash from it regularly. They receive a welcome packet once they sign up online and a sign to post in their yard that advertises the program. They are asked to report on their clean-up actions via postcard or email so their efforts can be documented. Residents can sign up online at

Photo credit:

The Phalen team is encouraged by the responses they have already received since city posts on Facebook and door knockers distributed in the neighborhood.

In mid-April, these three Master Water Stewards, along with Capitol Region Master Water Steward Chris Kunz and neighborhood volunteer Stuart Knapmiller, delivered door hangers to 735 households to advertise the program.

The response was immediate. By the next day, nine people had signed up to adopt drains in the targeted area. Other "adoptees" continue to pop up online.

The team is also organizing two informational meetings at First Covenant Church, 1280 Arcade Street in St. Paul, on May 1 and May 4 from 7-8 PM, to promote the program and provide information for the neighborhood and the general public about rain gardens, other BMPs and sustainable lawn care practices. They sent postcard invitations to the 735 residents in the area for these events.

Rachel reports that as of April 22, forty-one storm drains have by adopted by twenty-four households in their targeted area with 26 residents adopting 47 drains in other areas in our watershed since the city did their advertising push on Facebook in early April.

They are also planning several neighborhood group storm drain clean-up events by Phalen residents in the coming months.

The map on the city of St. Paul's website shows where drains have been adopted-to-date. The Center for Global and Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University has been working with Watershed Partners for several years to develop the Adopt-a-Drain program to provide a collaborative platform for water-focused organizations in order to engage citizens in preventing run-off pollution and to measure the impact of their actions. The program has been piloted in a number of neighborhoods in St. Paul, including the Como Lake area and is expanding to the Lake McCarrons neighborhood in Roseville this spring. The program has also been piloted in Minneapolis, where it is growing there as well.

Over three hundred residents in St. Paul have signed up to be a part of this initiative to reduce pollution from going into the Mississippi River and local lakes in the first year and a half. The role of CGEE at Hamline University is to do the overall administering of the program, customizing and sending out packets in the mail to people who sign up online, updating the database, answering emails sent to Adopt-a-Drain, sending reminder emails to participants twice a year, keeping records and being responsible for program reporting and evaluation.

This powerhouse team of Master Water Stewards in our watershed are not novices in the realm of community organizing.

  • Bill Cranford and Rachel Hanks have been long-time stewards and mentors on the East Side of St. Paul since 1996.
  • Bill has a strong connection to Urban Roots engaging thousands of youth in education, training and work projects that provide service to the community, develop young leaders and improve health and the environment.
  • Bill and Rachel's interest in protecting Lake Phalen and encouraging the restoration of native habitats led them to build a rain garden and incorporate native plants in their yard and garden that received a LEAP Award in 2011.
  • Bill has been instrumental in shepherding a number of rain garden projects at nearby churches, including Fist Covenant Church and Trinity Holy Orthodox Church.
  • Phyllis Webster, a resident of Maple Hills Townhome Association in Maplewood, is engaged in helping her community plan for and restore a buffer around the wetland behind their townhome complex.

We look forward to witnessing the results of their stewardship actions in the coming years!

We applaud the City of St. Paul for promoting stewardship that protects Lake Phalen and the Mississippi River as the Adopt-A-Drain program continues to build momentum. Thank you, Stewards, for your creativity and determination!

Rethinking the Traditional Lawn

By Angie Hong
(Reprinted from East Metro Water, April 26, 2017)
Traditional lawn interspersed with bee-friendly Dutch white clover.

When my dad moved to Palm Springs in 1987, the residential landscape there was eerily Midwestern. There were rows of tidy lawns in front of every house, petunias in the gardens, and pots of pansies on front porches. If it weren’t for the palm trees, one could have almost pretended they were in a town in Wisconsin or Ohio.

Palm Springs' green lawns and trees stand out against the earthen colored mountains.
It's hard to believe that people are growing lawns in a landscape that looks like this.
Of course, neither lawns nor petunias are well suited for the desert, and people in the Palm Springs area eventually realized that their landscape aesthetics would have to change. Over the years, when I headed south to visit my dad, I noticed that petunias had given way to desert blooms and many people had replaced their lawns with rock gardens. Landscaping in common areas began to change as well. Cities and homeowners’ associations transitioned to drought and heat tolerant xeriscaping and installed high-tech irrigation systems to reduce water usage. 

Thirty years later, some people in the Midwest are starting to wonder if traditional lawns make sense anywhere, even here in our temperate climate. According to various estimates, there are about 40 million acres of lawn in the United States, 32 million of which are irrigated. In fact, there are more irrigated acres of lawn than corn! The U.S. EPA estimates that Americans use 9 billion gallons of water per day irrigating lawns. In addition, lawns use 3 million tons of fertilizer per year, 30,000 tons of pesticides, and 800 million gallons of gasoline. 

Municipal water use during the summer spikes
dramatically due to lawn watering.
If we were to go back in time about 75 years, however, yesterday’s lawns looked a lot different than the ones we have today. Before broadleaf herbicides were invented, it was considered normal (even desirable) to have a lawn full of clover. Most families didn’t waste water on lawns, and if they did water the grass, it was only once or twice during the hottest weeks of the summer. Today, even here in Minnesota, we are beginning to feel the strain of excessive water use. We see lake levels dropping during extended periods of drought, and cities building expensive new well fields to meet summer water demands.


As we begin to rethink the “traditional” lawn, some people are advocating for a return to simpler ways when lawns were lower maintenance. Locally, the Pollinator Friendly Alliance has worked with the University of Minnesota to create a bee-friendly lawn mix that is low-growing and provides nectar for honeybees and native bees. To over-seed an existing lawn, scalp the grass to within 1 inch, rough up the soil with a rake, and then seed with a mix of 4lbs fine fescue, 7 Tbs white Dutch clover, 2 Tbs creeping thyme, and 7.5 Tbs self heal per 1000 square feet of lawn. Water for the first two weeks until the seeds germinate. After that, a bee-friendly lawn will not need water or fertilizer and only occasional mowing to keep it at a height of 3-4 inches.

A bee lawn includes a mix of low-growing fine fescue grasses, self heal, creeping thyme and Dutch clover.
Photo from Pollinator Friendly Alliance

Low-mow is another option that works for sunny or partially shady lawns. Comprised of fescue grasses that only need to be mowed once or twice a year when they go to seed, low-mow lawns don’t need to be watered or fertilized and will naturally block most weeds. Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin ( is the most popular place to purchase low-mow seed mixes, although low-mow is also sold locally at Gertens and Minnesota Native Landscapes. To establish a low mow lawn, kill off your existing grass in late August and then seed in the low-mow mix around Labor Day.  

Low mow grass only needs to be cut once or twice a year.
Photo by Douglas Owens-Pike

Even if you’re not ready to make a transition to a bee-friendly or low-mow lawn, there are a few simple changes you can make to save yourself time and protect water resources. First, resist the urge to apply avoid fertilizer in the spring. Fertilizer makes the grass grow faster (forcing you to mow more often) and tends to promote blade growth instead of root growth, making the grass less tolerant to drought during the summer. Set your mower blade higher (3-4in. tall) to encourage deeper roots, and mow less frequently or not at all during dry spells in the summer.

If you want to apply fertilizer, Minnesota Extension recommends one application around Labor Day. Get your soil tested first to ensure that you don’t waste money or give your lawn the wrong nutrients ( Most Minnesota lawns can survive without irrigation, but if you have an automatic system, install a rain sensor or soil moisture sensor and program your irrigation system to deliver no more than one inch (1in.) of water per week. On weeks that it rains, the lawn might not need to be watered at all. For more tips, download What to ask for from your lawn care provider or the Blue Thumb Year Round Guide to Yard Care at

Interested in learning more about lawn alternatives and water-friendly gardening? Stay tuned for a tour to be announced this summer.

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water Resources Education Program - - 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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Make Waves at WaterFest 2017!

WaterFest, a free, family festival, in its 18th year, celebrates our clean lakes and offers fun and opportunities for outdoor hands-on learning about clean water, wildlife, land and water conservation.
"Make Waves" at WaterFest 2017
Saturday, June 3, 11 AM - 4 PM
Lake Phalen Park in St. Paul

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District invites you and the whole community to join us for a fun-filled and educational day on and around the water at our annual WaterFest celebration. Spread a blanket on the hillside, chill out, relax and gaze out at beautiful Lake Phalen while listening to great music. All this and more is possible when you attend “Make Waves” WaterFest 2017.

WaterFest is held beside beautiful Lake Phalen in St. Paul.

Hot off the press are T-shirts for volunteers
with this new WaterFest logo!

Invite your neighbors and friends!
Bring your kids and grandkids!
At WaterFest you'll be inspired to learn new things and then try what you've learned at home. Learn some fun new games and recharge your batteries by meeting others in the community who are also interested in helping to keep our water clean.

Local talent will be featured at the amphitheater.
The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) will be hosting a variety of acts.
Photo credit: Anita Jader

Water Conservation is a popular topic at WaterFest. Check it out the EMWREP interactive display.
(EMWREP stands for East Metro Water Resources Education Program)
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

New this year is the Breck School Bato Bato Marimba Band and the Wisdom Water Dancers
who will perform at the amphitheater.

Photo credit: The Current
Back by popular demand are Voyageur canoe rides, kayaks and paddleboats.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Wilderness Inquiry canoe rides are always a popular activity at WaterFest.
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

Try out some fishing with equipment and lessons from Tips Outdoors.
Photo credit: Sage Passi

Or win a prize when you participate in the fishing contest!
Photo credit: Sage Passi

Get some exercise at the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation jump castle!
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Have your face painted and create a one-of-a-kind work of art.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Try your hand at lawn games.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader
Make and decorate your own fishing lure!
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Then refresh yourself at our Water Bar featuring flights from St. Paul, Maplewood and Roseville.
 Photo Credit: Anita Jader


Be sure to pick up a Passport Odyssey so you can win wonderful prizes!
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

The fabulous Farnsworth Marching Band will return this year featuring eighty-eight musicians.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Food and ice cream will be available to purchase from several different venders.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

At WaterFest you can play water games that will test your knowledge of pollinators and how to reduce your water footprint, receive sustainable gardening advice from Master Gardeners, take part in St. Paul Public Library StoryWalks with water-related themes and so much more!

Please note: Due to road construction, the park will only be accessible from the northwest or southeast because a section of Wheelock Parkway is closed. The five parking lots, island lot, pavilion lot, boathouse lot and beach lot on Phalen Drive and the satellite parking lots, Phalen Rec Center and Gustavus Adolphus Church lots will all be open.

In April 2016, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District received the Sustainable Saint Paul Environmental Education Award for WaterFest. It was touted as “an event for all ages, with the vision that everyone can play a role in protecting our water resources".

Volunteers are still needed! If you'd like to volunteer or be an exhibitor, CLICK HERE.

Volunteers are always appreciated!
Photo Credit: Anita Jader
Many thanks to our sponsoring partners listed below.

Capitol Region Watershed District

City of Maplewood

City of Saint Paul

City of Roseville

City of Little Canada

City of Shoreview

City of White Bear Lake

City of North Saint Paul

City of Landfall


Barr Engineering


Metropolitan Council Environmental Services


Minnesota Native Landscapes

Minnesota Water Well Association

Ramsey County

Galowitz-Olson PLLC

Center for Hmong Arts & Talent

FIN - Minnesota DNR Fishing in the Neighborhood

Fishing for Life

Joe's Sporting Goods

Ramsey Conservation District

Tips Outdoors

Washington Conservation District

Wilderness Inquiry