“It may not be sexy,” said Kevin Biehn to the group of water resource professionals gathered around him, “but that little depression in the ground is doing a lot to protect Goose Lake.” We were standing on the side of the road in Scandia looking at what appeared to be nothing and Biehn, a Landscape Architect with Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc., was describing a recent project to improve lake water quality. On the other side of the road sat a home surrounded by woods and a hill leading down to Goose Lake, though the water was too far away to see from where we stood.
Two years ago, Scandia homeowner Jed Chesnut contacted the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District about a large ravine on his property, located on the east side of Goose Lake in northern Washington County. Every time it rained, the ravine was eroding more, and Chesnut had taken a video showing a plume of dirty, brown water flowing into the lake from the hillside during a recent rainstorm. The District agreed that the ravine was indeed a cause for concern, especially because the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has declared Goose Lake to be “impaired” by excess phosphorus. Phosphorus, a naturally occurring element that feeds algae and aquatic plants, is found in organic material like leaves and grass clippings but also attaches to particles of soil. Thus, the eroding ravine was not only muddying the lake, but also contributing to algae blooms and poor water clarity.
That spring, staff from the Washington Conservation District came out to Chesnut’s home to look at the ravine and develop a preliminary plan for stopping the erosion. After that, the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District enlisted the help of Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc. to design the ravine repair project, which Scandia Trucking and Excavating constructed.
The Watershed District considered a number of options, but in the end, decided that a simple plan would most benefit Goose Lake. To begin, they excavated a slight depression in the land on the other side of the street from Chesnut’s home to capture and slow down rain runoff from the street and surrounding landscape. Now, when it rains, the water temporarily ponds in the depression before flowing more slowly through a pipe under the roadway and into the ravine. In addition, they installed rock check dams and erosion control fabric within the ravine to resist erosion and prevent more soil from washing away. Altogether, the project cost about $65,000 and it will keep 31,000 pounds of sediment and 24 pounds of phosphorus out of Goose Lake each year. In fact, building that un-sexy dip in the field has brought Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District one-third of the way toward its watershed goal for restoring Goose Lake to good health.
As local units of government continue to work with community members to protect and improve lakes and streams, it’s important to remember that clean water projects come in all shapes and sizes. Neighborhood raingardens and shoreline plantings may be flashy and garner more attention, but some of our most important restoration projects look like nothing at all when they’re done. You can’t see pollution not happening, but you can appreciate the cleaner water that results.
To learn more about the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District and projects to improve Goose Lake, visit www.cmscwd.org.