2021 will bring $2.6 million in new funding for watershed work in the St. Croix region

Just in time for the holidays, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources approved $12.3 million in Clean Water Fund grants to be used statewide for water quality improvement projects across Minnesota. Locally, partners in the Lower St. Croix watershed will receive $1.4 million in Clean Water grants in addition to $1.2 million already allocated for implementation of the new Lower St. Croix One Watershed Plan. City of Hugo will also receive $392,400 for a stormwater reuse project to reduce groundwater pumping and protect Clearwater Creek and Peltier Lake.

The St. Croix River and dozens of connected lakes and streams will benefit from new Clean Water grant funds in 2021.

Targeting precision conservation where it is needed most

The latest round of Clean Water Fund grants will support multi-year projects where studies have identified high priority actions needed to improve water quality in local lakes and rivers.

The Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District will receive $354,600 to reduce phosphorus levels in Little Comfort Lake in southern Chisago County and $171,200 to restore wetlands adjacent to Bone Lake in northern Washington County. The Little Comfort project will include construction of a weir to impound water in a large wetland complex, a series of man-made beaver dams, and an in-lake alum treatment and is expected to reduce phosphorus by 206 pounds per year. The project will also benefit nearby Comfort Lake, where the watershed district anticipates water quality improving enough to remove that lake from the state’s impaired waters list.  Wetland restoration near Bone Lake will remove phosphorus-rich sediment and is also expected to deliver that lake from the impaired waters list.

A multi-stage project on Little Comfort will also improve water quality in Comfort Lake (above).

Further north in Chisago County, the Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District will receive three separate grants for watershed restoration work near recreation lakes and tributaries to the St. Croix River. The first grant, worth $250,000, will fund more than 20 projects along Lawrence Creek, Dry Creek, and the St. Croix River. A second $250,000 grant will be used to fund projects on Rush, West Rush, and Goose Lakes. The third grant – $200,000 will support projects along the North Branch of the Sunrise River.

The Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization, which includes ten small communities from Stillwater down to Afton, will also receive $158,000 to implement stormwater treatment projects along the St. Croix River that were prioritized in a recently completed stormwater retrofit analysis.

Urban stormwater retrofit projects are planned for a stretch of the St. Croix River between Stillwater and Afton.

Supporting long-term planning, outreach, and research

In addition to the competitive grant awards, partners in the Lower St. Croix watershed will also receive $1.2 million in state funding over the next two years to begin implementing a newly approved 10-year Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan. While some of this funding is designated for “in-the-ground” projects, it will also help to create new cooperative outreach and education programs and support research to identify best value projects for the future.

Key actions outlined in the Lower St. Croix watershed planinclude: 1) Hiring staff and/or contractors to work with agricultural producers; 2) Providing funding for conservation farming projects and practices; 3) Expanding the East Metro Water Resource Education Program to serve Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, and Pine Counties; 4) Providing funding for water protection projects in urban areas; 5) Creating and restoring 1000 acres of wetlands in priority locations; 6) Protecting 1000 acres of critical habitat; and 7) Using diagnostic monitoring, computer modeling, field investigations, and cost benefit analyses to identify high value projects for implementation.

A major focus of the new Lower St. Croix “One Watershed” Plan will be working with farmers to implement conservation practices.

Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment

In 2008, voters in Minnesota approved a constitutional amendment that increased sales tax by 0.0038 in order to fund projects that protect and restore water and habitat, create parks and trails, and support arts and culture. The amendment has generated $971 million in Clean Water funding over the past ten years and is set to continue until 2034.

To learn more, visit: www.legacy.mn.gov.