As the Water Drop Rolls: Part 2

Welcome again to another edition of As the Water Drop Rolls, brought to you by the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, a partnership of 17 local units of government working to keep your water clean.

Fine readers, I’m sure you’ve wondered how our cast of characters has fared in 2011. When we last checked in, local watershed management organizations were waging furious battle against a multitude of villains – excess phosphorus, sediment and even gangs of rough fish. Did they succeed in their efforts to keep pollution out of our water?

We turn our attention first to the Comfort Lake boat launch in southern Chisago County. Under the direction of a fearless Eagle Scout named Ryan Thill, Troop 522 has set to work building three new raingardens to keep polluted runoff out of the Sunrise River. Vowing not to be outdone by a group of young rascals, several homeowners on Forest Lake and Bone Lake rip out sod along their lakeshore and replace it with deep-rooted native plants that stabilize the shoreline. Acting as the benevolent Godfather, the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District provides cost-share funding and design assistance to both the Boy Scouts and the homeowners. It’s an offer they can’t refuse.

Meanwhile, members at the White Bear Lake Yacht Club in Dellwood have been nervously watching as the lake slowly chips away at their eroding shoreline. “If this keeps up,” one woman exclaims, “We’ll be playing tennis on a floating dock next year.”   After a quick call to the Rice Creek Watershed District and Washington Conservation District, they hatch a plan to restore 575 feet of shoreline using a vegetated stabilization wall, a buffer of native plants, and bank toe protection. Although the members aren’t ones to brag, they can’t help but note that when the project is complete, it will be one of the longest stretches of continuous shoreline buffer on White Bear Lake and will keep 7.4 tons of sediment out of the lake each year.

In a bizarre twist of events, researchers with Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc. have been reduced to making fish puke, in the hopes of discovering who is responsible for the recent demise of Daphnia in Square Lake. Since both the rainbow trout and the bluegills are keeping mum on the subject, it appears that gastric lavage is the only way to learn the answer. Until the true identities of the Daphnia-eating culprits are revealed, the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District busies itself helping landowners around Square, Long, Sand and Hay Lakes install raingardens and shoreline plantings to keep the lakes clean.

On the eastern shores of Long Lake in Stillwater, reports of suspicious activity are filed after a van pulls up and a group of women are seen lugging an alarming number of packages into the woods near the edge of the lake. Further investigation reveals that the packages contain 15,000 plants for a Brown’s Creek Watershed District shoreline restoration project that will improve wildlife habitat and keep excess phosphorus and sediment out of the lake. The women lament their shortage of wheelbarrows for the project.

We take a break from the action at a scenic country villa in Lake Elmo where Sandy and Dennis Grabowski are showing off new raingardens and a native prairie planting at the 19th Annual Family Means St. Croix Valley Garden Tour. Butterflies and bees have been strategically invited to the soirée to accent the colors and design of the new gardens. The pollinators are happy to attend, believing that the beautiful flowers were planted just for them. Meanwhile, the Valley Branch Watershed District is equally certain that the gardens were actually planted to help reduce stormwater runoff to a nearby pond that connects to Lake Jane. Ever the gracious hosts, the Grabowski’s just smile and let both believe they are right.

Back in Stillwater, the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization is flush with cash from a Clean Water Legacy grant, which it’s using to give Lily and McKusick Lakes some star treatment. The sister lakes bask in adoration while their friends and neighbors plant raingardens during summer and fall. “By next year,” the two say, “We’ll be bluer than Katy Perry’s hair.”

On the other end of town, Kohlman Lake is still being held hostage by the deadly duo phosphorus and sediment. The Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District is continuing with its rescue plan, however, and has made steady advances throughout the year. With a one-two punch, the watershed district installs several rows of tree trenches within the Maplewood Mall parking lot, while simultaneously creating raingardens and a pad for a new water cistern. Ramsey-Washington chortles heartily, knowing that the combined projects will slowly bleed phosphorus and sediment dry. The future looks brighter for poor Kohlman Lake.

In our final episode of 2011, we meet again with the South Washington Watershed District. Trying hard to disguise pain, the watershed finally reveals that it hurt its back while digging holes to plant 200 trees around Woodbury’s Powers Lake this spring. Ignoring the doctor’s orders to rest, South Washington instead doled out water quality grants to dozens of homeowners during the summer and then helped Trinity Presbyterian to build seven raingardens during the fall. “Our water will get cleaner,” the watershed coughed, “Mark my word, the water will get cleaner.”

Caught in the act, BCWD Administrator Karen Kill helps to carry 15,000 plants to Long Lake

As the scene fades away, we can only wonder how our characters will fare in 2012. Will we ever find out who ate all the Daphnia? Will Kohlman Lake taste freedom again?  Stay tuned to find out in our next edition of As the Water Drop Rolls.


Angie Hong is an educator for the East Metro Water Resource 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, Lake Elmo, Stillwater, West Lakeland and Willernie, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-275-1136 x.35 or