Tuesday, May 2, 2017

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 adopt-a-drain.org.

Photo credit: Cleanwatermn.org

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

Nearly six 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, an organization that engages thousands of youth in education, training and work projects that provides service to the community, develops young leaders and improves the quality of food and our 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 First 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!

What's Going On at Grass Lake?

By Tina Carstens, District Administrator

You may be seeing a lot activity around the Grass Lake and Vadnais-Snail Lake Regional Park area and wondering what is going on. The Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (District) has contracted with Northern Dewatering to move forward with a project to help alleviate the flooding risk by lowering the higher than normal water levels in the adjacent wetlands. We will be pumping the water from the large Wetland A (see map below) back into Grass Lake where it came from. The District’s modeling suggests that this will help reduce groundwater levels around the neighborhood of concern. The Crestview Addition neighborhood has been coping with high groundwater levels, likely due to the long term high levels in those surrounding wetlands.

Northern Dewatering will be connecting over 2,000 feet of 12-inch diameter pipe and routing the pipe from the large Wetland A, through the tunnel in Gramsie Road and into Grass Lake. As of today, April 6, you will see the contractor in the area near Gramsie Road. They are first pumping the water out of that area to allow use of the pedestrian tunnel for the longer discharge pipe. The tunnel will not be open to pedestrians during the pumping effort. The berm along the north side of Grass Lake will also be improved to provide the storage needed to accept the water pumped from the Wetland A. After they pump the area around Gramsie Road and the 12” pipe is built and in place, a large (but quiet) pump will be placed in Wetland A and the pumping will begin.

To keep an eye on how the surface and groundwater levels are responding to the pumping, the District has installed two groundwater monitoring pipes in the area as well as six lake/wetland level gauges in the necessary water bodies. The District will be monitoring all the levels to assess the impact surface water pumping has on the groundwater levels as well as keeping an eye on the need to delay pumping due to weather conditions. It will ensure that there is not an increase flooding risk in and around Grass Lake. 

Water being pumped into Grass Lake
From the Grass Lake area, the water drains to West Vadnais Lake and eventually south of I-694 through a pipe and into the District’s Gervais Creek system. From there you can follow the path of the water all the way from Gervais Lake to Lake Phalen and eventually the Mississippi River! Prior to today, a small culvert on the north side of Grass Lake was blocked to stop the flow of water from there to the north and into Wetland A. Also, the District’s maintenance contractor cleaned out a channel south of West Vadnais Lake in order to open up that flow path for better drainage efficiency. District staff will continue to monitor the flow path and all potential restrictions to that flow. 

The District will be closely monitoring the system throughout the duration of this project. The modeling efforts the District has done to this point show that, in and of itself, the pumping of water from Wetland A back into Grass Lake does not negatively impact any other structures or infrastructure. That being said, we will be watching the forecasts and rain events closely. Rain events, depending on the intensity and timing, could yield further impacts to the park and roadways. Those would occur whether or not we pumped the water back into Grass Lake from the wetland, but will still need to be monitored closely. There may be times where we will need to shut the pumps off in order to not be pumping water that will find its way back into the wetland during a rain event. If all goes as planned, the pumping is expected to last 4-6 weeks.

The District is also proceeding with a large-scale modeling effort to search for potential long term solutions to the flood risk in this area, as well as looking more into the Snail Lake high water levels. More to come on that in the near future.

Please click here to see this update along with background information on this area.

Please email Tina Carstens, District Administrator, with any questions
or call 651-792-7950.

Monday, May 1, 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! 

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 out the EMWREP interactive display.
(EMWREP stands for East Metro Water Resources Education Program)
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

New this year are 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