Marine residents rally to restore neighborhood stream

It was the weekend after 4th of July and five neighbors in Marine on St. Croix were ready to work. Armed with 1500 native plants, 2000 popsicle sticks, and a cheerful group of friends, family and children, the group tromped into the soggy wild behind their homes and began working to restore a small stream corridor that runs through their neighborhood and down to the St. Croix River.

The Judd Street neighborhood stream-restoration project has been in the works since last year, when Marine resident Jeff Roach scheduled a site visit with Washington Conservation District (WCD) to ask for advice on controlling invasive buckthorn on his property. During the visit, Roach learned that many of the plants growing along the stream corridor in his backyard were non-native as well. The stream carries water out of a large wetland complex, under Judd St., and then downhill to the St. Croix River. Many decades ago, the original stream channel was straightened and redirected to make room for homes and the shoreline area along the water’s edge filled in with a mix of plants that were poorly suited to control erosion and provide quality habitat. With help from Mike Isensee, then a watershed specialist with WCD and now the administrator for Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District (CMSCWD), Roach decided to restore the tiny stream corridor with plants that will provide nectar for pollinators, habitat for birds, and better protection against erosion in the stream channel.

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Five neighbors in Marine on St. Croix worked together to restore a degrade stream corridor this summer.

After a few phone calls, Jeff Roach and his wife Carissa had recruited help from four additional neighbors – Matt Thibodeau, Irene Qualters, Liz Kelly, and Mitch and Molly Hanson. The group also applied for and received a $1640 grant from CMSCWD to purchase plants. “The watershed district was happy to assist with this project,” says Isensee, “because it supports many of our organizational goals, including protecting stream corridors, minimizing erosion and sedimentation, preserving habitat, and increasing public awareness and participation.”

When planting day came this summer, the Marine residents ended up hauling out seven truck loads of buckthorn and planting 1500 native plants, each marked with a tiny popsicle stick so that they can keep track of them as they grow. “It wasn’t like planting a garden,” Roach laughs. “The ground back there is wet and rolling and there are trees and plants growing everywhere.” Thanks to many helping hands, however, they were able to complete the planting within one day.

Plants selected for the Marine on St. Croix stream restoration project include Blue Flag Iris, Great Blue Lobelia, Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Prairie Cord Grass, Blue Joint Grass, Switch grass, Ironweed, Mountain Mint, Boneset, Greenheaded Coneflower, and New England Aster. The plants were chosen because they are deep-rooted, adapted to wetland and shoreline conditions, and bloom at different times of the year. With this year’s planting project complete, the Judd Street neighbors already have their sights set on next summer, when they hope to continue their stream restoration efforts and plant the west side of the stream corridor with a similar mix of native plants.

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The streambank planting included deep-rooted native plants like aster that reduce erosion and provide habitat.

Isensee hopes that the stream-restoration project in Marine will inspire people in other parts of the county to work together with neighbors on similar projects. Washington Conservation District provides free site visits and advice for conservation projects anywhere in the county, and helps interested landowners get financial assistance from watershed districts and other sources. Funds are available for a wide variety of projects, including planting native plants along streambank and lakeshore properties, building raingardens to reduce runoff pollution, converting large lawns and farm fields to prairie, and controlling erosion along hillsides and drainage ways. Highest priority is given to projects that keep sediment and nutrients out of lakes, streams and rivers and involve multiple landowners.

To learn more about the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District and efforts to protect water resources in northeastern Washington County, visit www.cmscwd.org.

To sign-up for a free site visit with the Washington Conservation District and learn about incentive grants anywhere in Washington County, visit www.mnwcd.org.