Get to Know ACD: Two Truths & A Lie Edition!

Here's our version of a popular kid quiz game. Below are sets of three statements. Can you tell which one is the lie? See answers at the bottom of the page! 

#1:  About the Anoka Conservation District's (ACD) origins…

  • a) ACD began with the purpose of replanting trees lost to the devastating 1939 Anoka tornado.
  • b) We started in 1946 with focus on stemming Dust Bowl era erosion.
  • c) ACD was brought into existence by the voters of Anoka County through a referendum.

#2:  About the Anoka Conservation District (ACD)…

  • d) We're a department of Anoka County that focuses on natural resources issues.
  • e) ACD's elected Board of Supervisors sets the policy and direction of the District and staff work to bring it to fruition.
  • f) Our staff of 12 includes experts on water quality projects, upland habitat restoration, wetlands, and more.

#3:  About ACD's function…

  • a) ACD offers technical and financial incentives to encourage conservation activities and works with willing landowners to make them happen.
  • b) By creating reasonable standards and issuing permits, we are able to stem negative impacts of development.
  • c) We keep our finger on the pulse of our natural resources with an extensive program of monitoring and inventory done in partnership with water management entities.

#4:  About ACD's funding…

  • a) At $0.41 per capita for general services, ACD funding from the county is the lowest funded soil and water conservation district in MN.
  • b) ACD invented, patented, and sells a product that has over $500K in annual sales.
  • c) In 2022 our elected supervisors reduced our tax levy by 5%.

#5: ACD's accomplishments…

  • a) In 2021 we installed 66 projects for water quality and habitat.
  • b) We simultaneously manage 10 different grants that are used for projects.
  • c) Our biggest project in 2021 was nearly ¼ mile of stabilized Mississippi Riverbank.

#6: Collaborations…

  • a) ACD serves as the contracted administrator for three watershed organizations to reduce duplication and coordinate.
  • b) Cities, lake associations, watershed groups, and landowners voluntarily contribute match to help us secure grants for projects of mutual interest.
  • c) We spend a lot of time working with people who are under mandatory permit requirements to do conservation projects.

#7: Stuff we'll help you pay for…

  • a) Our Lawns to Legumes program encourages pollinator habitat. (Legumes are a class of veggies including beans, peas, & clovers).
  • b) Our Green Fields, Blue Water Initiative with the Minnesota Twins will install "smart" irrigation systems on community baseball fields to avoid watering when rain is in the immediate forecast or a game is scheduled to be played.
  • c) Our Septic Fix Up grants help folks in deep crap with repair or replacement a failing septic system. It helps protect lakes and groundwater.

#8: Office life…

  • a) We have "companion ducks" at the office to calm our nerves. When they migrate in winter, staff get pretty edgy. Call during summer.
  • b) We celebrate casual Fridays on Thursdays. When actual Friday arrives, it's a little depressing. Call before Friday.
  • c) Our staff "wellness program" is all about encouraging naps. Life is a race already. Please call after nap time.

ANSWERS

#1: The lie is (a) -- While the 1939 tornado was devastating, it was the Dust Bowl era of drought that prompted a need to connect farmers with practices that were less erosion-prone. We have evolved to include urban and sub-urban conservation practices.

#2: The lie is (a) -- ACD is not an Anoka County department. We are separate, with our own elected supervisors.

#3: The lie is (b) -- We don't have any regulatory authority nor issue permits. We work with willing landowners only.

#4: The lie is (c) -- We don't have tax levy authority. We do receive some funds from the county and grants that originate from taxpayers, but we control none of it.

#5: The lie is (b) -- At any given time we have 20+ different grants totaling over 4 million dollars!

#6: The lie is (c) – We work with willing landowners only. We don't do regulation.

#7: The lie is (b) -- Nice idea, but not yet reality. Consider smart irrigation for your home.

#8: The lie is…all of them. :) 

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The Rules of Recreational Boating

Recreational boating has do's and don'ts and an overall etiquette accepted behavior on and around the water. Best boating practices are about safe behavior, as well as what's socially accepted. Here are the top 10 rules to respectful boating developed by the Minnesota DNR to help you navigate the boating world.

  1. Respect the ramp. Good boating etiquette starts before you enter the water - at the dock. Prepare your boat and equipment before getting into position to launch. Anything else is disrespectful to fellow boaters.
  2. Own your wake. The fastest way to make the wrong kinds of waves is to literally throw a big, obtrusive wave at another boat, swimmer, angler or shoreline owner. This is much more than being a nuisance or disrupting others' experience on the water. It's dangerous to those unable to tolerate a large wake. Stay at least 200 feet from the shoreline and other boaters.
  3. Keep the tunes in check. Sound is amplified over the water, so keep the music at a decent level. Not only is it a disturbance to others but the operator may not hear the spotter.
  4. Pack in. Pack out. Seems like common sense, right? Yet shorelines are still lined with trash being thrown overboard. Take care of the body of water you love and dispose of any trash you have. Do not throw it overboard!
  5. Slow your roll. Does the body of water you're on have a speed limit or slow-no-wake restriction? It's your responsibility to know it and respect it. You are responsible for any damage you cause to other people's property.
  6. Rules of the road. Become familiar with waterway markers and navigation rules, which dictate how you operate your vessel in order to prevent collision.
  7. Be prepared. If you are the captain, you need to be prepared with the safety rules for your craft and make your guests aware as well. Know state and local laws for the body of water you're on. Set a good example by always wearing a life jacket and have enough life jackets for each person onboard. Beyond that, make sure to have the appropriate fit.
  8. Fuel and go. At the fuel dock, get fuel, pay your bill and move out of the way. If you need to buy additional supplies, relocate your boat. Don't forget to run your blower before starting.
  9. Anchoring and mooring. Enter an anchorage or mooring area at a slow speed. Don't create a wake that will disrupt other anchored boats. The first boat sets the tone. Mimic how they tie off, how much line you use and how much distance you allow between you and other boats. The busier the boat, the more space you should give yourself.
  10. Be polite – give a wave. When passing another boat, give a little wave hello. Boating is all about having fun and being part of the boating community. Embrace it, enjoy it, and share it for generations to come.

Remember, these are guidelines and should not serve as a replacement for learning the rules, regulations and laws for your local body of water. Whether you're a novice or veteran boater, learn more by taking a boating safety course. 

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KNOW YOUR SHORELINE

Minor erosion at the toe of slope exposed during low water. If the erosion is addressed early, larger bank failures in the future may be avoided.

If you live on water, whether it be a lake, river, creek, or stormwater pond, low water during the summer months can provide a great opportunity for you to conduct a quick inspection of your shoreline condition. The very bottom of your shoreline, where it meets the water, is called the toe and is the most critical part for stability.

Low water often exposes the toe of the slope and allows you to identify areas of concern. For example, you might observe undercutting, where the lowest portion of the bank has been scoured away by flowing water or wave action. When problems are caught early, the solutions are often much simpler and cheaper. Addressing erosion concerns early also helps prevent more severe bank failures down the road.

Another good time to inspect your bank is in the fall once leaves have fallen and before snowfall. You can inspect the upper portions of your bank for problems like rutting from concentrated overland flow over the top of the bank.

If you have any questions about your shoreline or think a site visit may be warranted, please contact ACD staff. We're here to help. 

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ACD and Partners are Working to Bring Legacy Funds to Enhance Habitat in Anoka County

Anoka Conservation District recently submitted two proposals, HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2 and HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8 to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council ML 2023 Request for Funding. The proposed activities will enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat in Anoka County and collaborate with Partners in the Rum River Corridor and the Anoka Sand Plain Ecoregion.  

HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2
$3.5M request ($3M for Anoka County) includes:

  • Streambank and in-channel stabilization (2,200 linear feet);
  • In-stream fish habitat with a focus on game fish (1,200 linear feet); and
  • Riparian forest, wetland, and prairie enhancement in the Shoreland Zone (118 acres) including wild rice habitat on tribal lands.

Partners:

  • Anoka, Isanti and Mille Lacs SWCDs
  • Anoka and Isanti Counties
  • Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8
$8.9M request ($2.15M for ACD) includes:

  • Conservation easements (540 acres)
  • Habitat restoration and enhancement (1,736 acres and 2,200 linear feet of shoreline)
  • Rare plant rescue program

Direct Grant Recipients and Partners:

    • Anoka Conservation District
    • Great River Greening
    • Minnesota Land Trust
    • National Wild Turkey Federation
    • Sherburne County Parks
    • Anoka County Parks
    • City of Anoka
    • MN Landscape Arboretum
    • Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
    • MN DNR Forest Lake WMA
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Rain Gardens in the City of Fridley

Six rain gardens are being installed at residential lots in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood in the City of Fridley. These rain gardens are being placed at high priority locations to intercept and treat stormwater before it enters Rice Creek. The locations were identified during a Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis conducted by ACD in partnership with the City and the Rice Creek Watershed District. The rain gardens are being funded by the RCWD's water quality cost share program and the City of Fridley. Landowners have all agreed to long-term maintenance of the gardens to ensure optimal and continuing stormwater treatment. 

A rain garden under construction in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood, City of Fridley

Cumulatively, the six rain gardens are estimated to infiltrate 455,000 gallons of water, as well as remove 605 pounds of sediment and two pounds of phosphorus loading to Rice Creek annually. All six rain gardens will be vegetated with native plants to maximize infiltration and provide the co-benefit of pollinator habitat. Additionally, one rain garden will be located immediately adjacent to a trail entrance into Locke County Park, providing an excellent public education opportunity.

Watch for additional updates as construction is finalized. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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Rain Gardens Benefitting the Rum River

Six new rain gardens are being installed this summer in Anoka and Ramsey to benefit the Rum River. The first was highlighted in June. The second is now complete! It is located on Oneida Street in Ramsey.

Each curb-cut rain garden captures water from the neighborhood streets, driveways, roofs and other surfaces. Prior to these projects the stormwater was discharged directly to the Rum River without treatment. Rain gardens are ideal in built-out neighborhoods where space is not available for stormwater ponds or other larger practices. 

Kyle and Jamie Leaf and family at the newly constructed rain garden in their front yard. The Leaf family will own and maintain the rain garden which treats stormwater from 7 acres of their neighborhood.

Funding for two rain gardens is a state Clean Water Fund grant and the Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization. Funding for the other four is the City of Anoka as part of their 2022 street renewal project. 

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Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Trainings

If you are looking to develop your knowledge of the outdoors this summer, consider the Minnesota Outdoors Skills and Stewardship webinar series being offered by the Minnesota DNR. The webinars take place every Wednesday through the month of August and are less than an hour long. These training webinars are structured towards the general public and can be beneficial for someone who is brand new to a topic or for someone who is experienced but is looking for a refresher. Each weekly webinar covers a different topic. Topics range from "Forging on the North Shore" and "How to Harvest Wild Rice" to "New Deer Regulations" and "Smallmouth Bass River Fishing".

This training series is unique because attendees get the opportunity to learn from some of the top professionals in the state who are leading experts within their field. For people who are busy, this is a great way to learn new skills without having to commit a ton of time and resources. You can also access previously recorded webinars providing you hours of fantastic resources.

Sign up today and give one a try! Follow the link below to view the upcoming training schedule and get access to past webinars.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishwildlife/outreach/index.html 

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Anoka CWMA works to control invasive species in Anoka County

BWSR awarded ACD $15,000 for the third phase of the Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area. The Anoka CWMA formed in 2018 and consists of Anoka Conservation District, Anoka Parks, Cities, Watershed Districts, MN Department of Agriculture, and volunteers to coordinate invasive species control efforts in Anoka County. Anoka CWMA activities include mapping, monitoring, outreach, treatment on select populations, and provides some cost share assistance. 

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Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program

BWSR awarded ACD $40,000 for the Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program. ACD, Anoka County Parks, City of Blaine and City of Fridley identified project sites to create species rich, diverse prairies. There are 12 prairies identified in Anoka County Parks land with low forb diversity within the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee priority area that will be enhanced. Turf to prairie conversion will occur on a total of 4.75 acres at Fridley Commons Park, Blaine Laddie Lake, Coon Rapids Dam, Rice Creek West Regional Trail and Bunker Regional Park. These projects range from 0.25 to 1.5 acres and will be forb-rich.

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Rain Gardens Benefitting the Rum River

Six new rain gardens will be installed this summer in Anoka and Ramsey to benefit the Rum River. The first of them, on Washington Street, was completed the first week of June. Each curb-cut rain garden captures water from the neighborhood streets, driveways, roofs and other surfaces. Prior to these projects, the stormwater is discharged directly to the Rum River without treatment. Rain gardens are ideal in built-out neighborhoods where space is not available for stormwater ponds or other larger practices.

Funding for two rain gardens is a state Clean Water Fund grant and the Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization. Funding for the other four is the City of Anoka as part of their 2022 street renewal project. 

Bowler family members Amanda and Connor at the newly constructed rain garden in their front yard (not pictured: Daniel Bowler). The Bowlers will own and maintain the rain garden which treats stormwater from 2.2 acres of their neighborhood.
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Native Plantings Added to Streambank Stabilization Sites

Image sourced from MNDNR Stream Habitat Program

Last year, over 3,000 linear feet of cedar tree revetments were installed on the banks of the Rum River in Anoka County. While the cedar trees themselves will help capture sediment and prevent further erosion throughout the coming years, the re-establishment of native riparian vegetation is essential for promoting long-term bank resiliency. In May, ACD staff, with assistance from Anoka County Parks staff, planted a total of over 1,000 plants across six cedar revetment sites; species planted included sandbar willow, red osier dogwood, false indigo, and buttonbush (pictured below). 

When present, the deep roots of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and other vegetation act like a net, securing the bank's soils and preventing them from washing away. Streambank vegetation also provides essential habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species. For these reasons, ACD incorporates native plantings into all streambank stabilization projects.

Images sourced from Minnesota Wildflowers. © Peter M. Dziuk
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Isanti 5th Grade Conservation Day

On a cool and cloudy May morning, ACD participated in Isanti Conservation Day, an annual event designed to teach students about natural resource stewardship. Approximately 475 fifth graders were given a chance to get outside for a morning to learn about the natural world around them, and how to protect it, by rotating through stations scattered throughout Becklin Homestead Park. ACD collected a myriad of live aquatic invertebrates from local streams to give the students a hands-on way to learn about the unseen creatures that live in their favorite water bodies.

Each group examined trays containing wriggling nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, case-building caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, and more. They excitedly gathered around their tables to observe the activity in their trays and tallied how many kinds of invertebrates they were able to identify from a provided list. This led to discussions on what the diversity and types of creatures found in the water could tell them about river health. Looking at their lists, students learned that they could make inferences about water quality based on the pollution tolerance of the invertebrates that they found. Each session was wrapped up by sharing ideas on actions and practices that they could take to protect the health of their local rivers. The event was engaging for the fifth graders and provided them with new perspectives on how people can learn about water quality.  

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Insects Are Important Because of Their Diversity

Spring is finally here and with that comes lots of critters-- including insects! Oftentimes, insects have a negative connotation for people, but many (if not most) actually have an important role in our world. Instead of reaching for the nearest spray can of pesticide anytime you see something munching on your flowers, first determine if it actually is a pest or not! One of the easiest ways to do this is to download apps that help you identify items in the natural world. One that I really like and can be used for plants as well is the iNaturalist app, available for free! It allows you to narrow down to a few possibilities and is quite accurate.

This male twelve-spotted skimmer is a dragonfly that is fast and will guard its territory. Its larvae will eat mosquitos before they hatch.
Japanese beetles are a non-native, invasive beetle. Once they are adults, spraying pesticides is ineffective.

That scary bug could actually be a beneficial "good bug" that eats problem pests. Accept a little damage and give nature time to work. Accept a few pests, as long as they are not harmful to the long-term effects of the landscape. Natural predators often bring pests under control, but they need time to work. Monitor your landscape to spot signs of pests, but don't spray at the first sign of damage — nature may control it for you or plants may outgrow the damage. If a pest or weed problem develops, use an integrated approach to solve the problem. Physical controls like traps, barriers, fabric row covers or plants that repel pests can work for some pests.

A holistic approach can be an effective tools for controlling pests such as insects, weeds, and diseases. Be sure you need a pesticide before you use it. Ongoing pest problems are often a sign that your lawn or garden is not getting what it needs to stay healthy. You need to correct the underlying problem to reduce the chance of pests reappearing. Remember, a holistic — or integrated pest management — approach is the most effective way to manage pests.

A longhorn beetle on an upright yellow coneflower. Note the pollen that it is eating.
Start with prevention.

  • Mow higher. Most grasses should be mowed to a height of two to three inches. Taller grass has more leaf surface and deeper roots and eventually chokes out many weeds.
  • Clean out diseased plants so disease doesn't spread.
  • Pull weeds before they go to seed and spread.
  • Identify the problem before you spray, squash or stomp (see paragraph above on ID). Whether it's a bug, disease or weed, you need to identify it to know how to effectively manage it. Carefully read and follow pesticide product label instructions. Avoid overuse of pesticides. When you have a small problem area, treat just that area, not the entire yard. Remember, most bugs are good bugs. Only about 5– 15 percent of the bugs in your yard are pests.

For more information and amazing photos go to the following link: Those Other Flower Visitors | The Prairie Ecologist 

Eastern bluebirds benefit from less pesticide use and will feed their nestlings with the caterpillars that feed on your shrubs and trees.
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Rare Plant Rescue Program Salvaged 200 MN Endangered Rubus stipulatus

The Highway CSAH 14 (Main Street) is slated to expand and build storm ponds in an area with Rubus stipulatus, a MN Endangered rare plant. The Rare Plant Rescue Program, consisting of Anoka SWCD, Critical Connections Ecological Services, and MN Landscape Arboretum, coordinated with the MN DNR and Anoka Highway Department to salvage the plants prior to construction. As soon as development permits were complete and signed, the Rescue Program swiftly accessed the highway expansion site to dig out plants that were just emerging. Plants were taken to Bunker Hills Regional Park where Anoka Parks staff and Volunteers transplanted 200 plants into plots. Cuttings of Rubus stipulatus were also taken, and will be propagated at the MN Landscape Arboretum and planted in the fall. Rescue transplants will be monitored to assess survivorship and recruitment. This is all made possible with collaboration, Volunteers, and Anoka Sand Plain Partnership Outdoor Heritage Funds.

To learn more about this program and how to get involved, see the information flyer here: https://tinyurl.com/mnrp-flyer

Sign up on the Rare Plant Rescue Network form

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“Google River View”: 360° Photos Collected on the Rum and Mississippi

An actively eroding bank on the Rum River

Photos collected from near-shore zones on surface waters throughout the county serve as valuable tools for assessing lakeshore and riverbank conditions. Following a day in the boat with a 360° camera, these photos are uploaded to Google Street View, making them accessible to anyone. ACD then uses these them to compile erosion inventory reports, which describe erosion severity and stabilization project needs on high-priority waterbodies such as the Rum and Mississippi Rivers. Updated photos for these rivers were collected throughout the first week of May and are now available to view (alongside those captured in previous years) on Google Maps.  

While browsing through these photos, you are sure to see a beautiful river view. You may also notice banks currently experiencing noticeable erosion or, alternatively, portions that have recently been stabilized and planted with native vegetation.

A formerly failing riverbank at the Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka, stabilized and planted with native vegetation
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