Green streets, blue water, yellow ducks

If you live or work near Bayport, you know about the Duck Derby. Held every year as part of the community’s signature Derby Days Festival, the race pits neighbor against neighbor and brother against sister in a nail-biting competition to see whose rubber duck will float down Perro Creek the fastest. “Buy a rubber ducky and watch it ‘streak the creek’,” advertises Bayport’s Community Action League, “Cash prizes for the top three ‘Lucky Ducks’ in the final heat!”

Starting next year, the bright yellow Derby Day ducks will enjoy cleaner, bluer, water during their annual float down Perro Creek thanks to the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization’s (MSCWMO) upcoming Green Streets Project. With help from a $70,000 grant from the St. Croix River Association, the MSCWMO will work with both Bayport and Stillwater to retrofit stormwater treatment on their city streets so that less pollution runs off the pavement and into Perro Creek and the St. Croix River. In Bayport, MSCWMO will help the Public Works Department to build six to eight infiltration basins (otherwise known as big raingardens) to capture and treat stormwater that would otherwise pollute Perro Creek. In Stillwater, street reconstruction projects during 2011 and 2012 will also include stormwater retrofits aimed at soaking the first inch of rain from any storm into the ground before it can run off and pollute local lakes and the St. Croix River. MSCWMO estimates that the Green Streets projects in Bayport and Stillwater will keep 26-30 pounds of phosphorus out of the St. Croix every year, which is the equivalent of up to 15,000 pounds of algae.

Green streets and yellow ducks are both familiar themes for local communities interested in keeping water blue. A television ad produced by the Clean Water Minnesota media campaign shows a comical armada of rubber ducks floating down urban streets and waterways. “If stormwater pollution were simply rubber duckies,” intones the announcer, “it wouldn’t matter what went down the storm drains.” Instead, of course, it’s usually cigarette butts, dog poop and grass clippings that end up in streams like Perro Creek. Raingardens and stormwater ponds help to reduce runoff pollution, but the Clean Water Minnesota campaign also stresses the importance of community members doing their part to keep streets clean and keep yard waste out of streams and natural drainage ways in their yards.

In North St. Paul, the city is working with the Ramsey Washington – Metro Watershed District to develop a Complete Green Streets plan that they hope will make city streets both greener and friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists. The current concept is to gradually retrofit roadways in town during already planned street improvement projects so that eventually most streets will have bike lanes and walkways, as well as raingardens and trees to reduce polluted runoff. By folding these retrofits into regular maintenance projects, North St. Paul can save big bucks and minimize disruptions to local businesses and residents.

If you’ve never raced a duck in Bayport’s Derby Days, you’ve still got ten months to prepare for next year’s event. Meanwhile, you can get into the racing spirit by visiting and clicking on the yellow duck. Share the link with your friends and let them know that green streets lead to blue water and happy yellow ducks.