ACD Stands Poised for a Decade of Natural Resource Stewardship

ACD is pleased to present our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Natural Resource Stewardship Plan to our implementation partners and stakeholders. The plan embraces the fact that all natural resources are interconnected and interdependent and presents stewardship goals, objectives and strategies in a manner that will enhance our ability to address issues holistically. The plan is structured around four foundational natural resources: surface water, groundwater, ecological resources, and soils. We also dedicate a portion of the plan to our human resources in a section called Community.

While the plan has been adopted in its current state, over the coming four months ACD intends to reengage with stakeholders who helped bring the plan together to solicit additional input for incorporation into an amendment mid-2021.

Special purpose units of government like watershed districts and soil and water conservation districts routinely face the challenge of communicating progress toward goals amid the complexity of natural resources stewardship. Often this messaging is to stakeholders with limited expertise on the subject. To address this challenge, as a central component of the plan, ACD has developed an Action Wheel with 24 Keystone Endeavors across the four foundational natural resources, community and district operations. Annual success in achieving these endeavors will be reported in an easy to understand manner beginning with our 2021 Annual Report.

The extent to which ACD's efforts improve the quality of life of Anoka County residents is another matter. This delves into matters of ecosystem services, economics, spirituality, recreation, mental health, and so on. How to gauge the value of floating on a clean lake on a hot afternoon? We have a plan for this too, which will come together in our 2021 Annual Report.

Because ACD does not have statutory funding authority, budgets and work plans are aspirational as opposed to prescriptive. To project future budgets, expense and revenue trends over the prior ten years were used. The following revenue and expense projects may appear aggressive at first glance. Considering that Anoka County has over 350,000 residents and that two-thirds of projected revenues come from product sales and state grants, the burden on the Anoka County taxpayer to support ACD's work, including county and local government contributions, would be well below $5 per person. 

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Rain Guardian Turret Installed at American Society of Civil Engineers Global Headquarters

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Global Headquarters parking lot was recently retrofit with a number of low impact development stormwater control measures to reduce runoff volumes and improve water quality. The demonstration project will provide visitors to the campus with an introduction to a variety of options for stormwater management.

One of the products installed was a FocalPoint high performance biofiltration system that also included a Rain Guardian Turret for pretreatment. Rain Guardians provide a stable inlet and effective pretreatment for bioretention systems by capturing sediment and debris in an easy to clean location. Other products installed included permeable pavers and porous concrete.

The campus has served as the ASCE Global Headquarters since 1994, is located just outside of Washington D.C., and hosts several thousand visitors each year.

Additional project information is available at https://www.ascefoundation.org/asce-sustainable-parking-lot-project.

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Staff Spotlight: Becky Wozney

Becky Wozney, ACD's Wetland Specialist, has always had a strong connection to nature. When she was a girl growing up in Pine County, she would regularly ride her horse, Annie, through her family's pastures for hours on end. She fell in love with nature and the outdoors while exploring her family's property with her dogs and today believes that outreach and education can really change how people, especially children, interact with our natural resources. "Anytime we can get kids outside and teach them to respect nature, it will have a large impact on them later in life," says Becky.

Now that Becky has her own daughters, she tries to instill in them the same love of the outdoors that she learned as a kid. She and her family all love to travel and have visited 30 states (including Alaska and Hawaii!) plus Costa Rica and Canada. They are planning a Europe-based trip in 2022. Becky and her family also greatly enjoy spending time on the lake in their boat or kayak, camping in Minnesota's state parks, and hiking with their dog, Millie.

Outside of Becky's work providing technical assistance and Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) regulatory assistance to county residents, she is involved in youth sports and volunteering on natural resource projects in her city.

To contact Becky, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (763) 434-2030 x14.

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Best Native Trees for our Changing Climate

Climate change has many impacts on the natural environment and there are many ways we can help reduce climate change. There is yet another way to help with the impacts of climate change. Planting a diversity of trees that are predicted to thrive in a changing climate will help the landscape adapt and become more resilient.

Minnesota's climate is changing. Average temperatures have increased 1 - 3 ◦F statewide with the greatest temperature increases in the winter. Total precipitation has increased with more intense rainfalls. Despite the increase in total precipitation, there have been more days between precipitation events, which increases the potential for drought. The US National Climate Assessment predicts that these trends will continue in Minnesota. By the end of the century, Minnesota will likely have the summer climate of Nebraska and Kansas (Figure 1). Plant communities and habitat types will change along with the changing climate. Most tree species northward range are predicted to shift about 300 miles by the end of the century (McKenney et al. 2007). The change in tree cover alters the understory and the habitat for wildlife. One way to help the landscape adapt and become more resilient is to plant a diversity of trees and include species from more southern areas.

US Forest Service climate change models predict these trees are likely to thrive in a changing climate in the Metro region:

Tree Species

Habitat

American elm *

Average – Moist soil, floodplains, deciduous forest, swamps

Basswood

Deciduous forests, woodland edges

Black Oak

Savanna

Black Walnut

Mixed forest, Savannas, banks

Bur Oak

Forest to open prairie

Cottonwood

Lowland forests along along lakes and streams, floodplains

Hackberry

Average – Moist soil, Hardwood forest, floodplains, river bank

Shagbark hickory

Upland dry forest

Silver maple

Floodplain forest, riverbanks

White Oak

Upland dry forest

* disease resistant needed


Consider the habitat, moisture, soil, and sun conditions when selecting trees for your property.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/best-native-yard-trees.html


McKenney DW Pedlar JH Lawrence K Campbell K Hutchinson MF. 2007. Potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of North American trees. BioScience 57:939-948.

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Ice Safety

Even though it is January, ice conditions on local lakes can vary and still pose a high safety risk. The last several winters have shown above average temperatures and this winter season, both November and December, recorded averages that were nearly 5 degrees higher than the 30-year average for the area. In December of 2020, 18 days throughout the month had temperatures above freezing and even had some rain events. These types of conditions have the ability to quickly change the thickness of the ice on your favorite lake. Use caution when navigating ice throughout the season especially earlier in the winter. Every year in Minnesota, people, ATVs, and vehicles go through ice that is too thin. The Minnesota DNR provides safety guidelines at: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/index.html

Remember, no fish is worth swimming with the fishes for.

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Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning Initiative Complete

The Metropolitan Conservation Districts (MCD), through funding provided by a Clean Water Fund Accelerated Implementation Grant, created the Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning (CGCP) protocol with the ultimate goal of water conservation project implementation. ACD served as the host district and led protocol development, provided staff training, conducted final report reviews for all 11 Metro counties, and prepared a final report summarizing all completed analyses.

The CGCP protocol provides a detailed analysis of all water using systems on a campus, both indoor and outdoor, and can be implemented by Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff throughout the state to produce prioritized lists of water conservation project opportunities. The straightforward work products produced by the CGCP protocol empower campus decision makers to confidently implement cost-effective water conservation projects.

Throughout the 11-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA), the CGCP protocol was implemented on 21 campuses with at least one analysis occurring in each county (see map below).Initial outreach efforts to campuses were prioritized based on campus age, with older campuses having a higher likelihood of inefficient fixtures, and selected campuses were required to be publicly owned and use groundwater as a water source.

Cumulatively, the 21 analyses identified significant opportunities for conserving groundwater and saving money. Potential projects from all campuses were compiled, and a total of 2,043 potential projects were identified that would cumulatively save over 113 million gallons over the estimated life of the projects, which averaged 8.4 years. However, not all 2,043 of the projects were financially favorable because the required payback period of some projects exceeds the project's lifespan.

There were 1,182 projects with a positive net financial savings (i.e. the payback periods for the projects are shorter than the estimated lifespan of the projects, so implementation results in a net financial savings) that cumulatively reduce water use by over 101 million gallons over the estimated lifespan of the projects, which averaged 8.6 years. Implementing all 1,182 projects would cost approximately $250,000, but the net savings over the life of the projects is over $485,000.

Nearly 200 of the projects had estimated payback periods of less than one year. Implementation of these projects would save over 15 million gallons of water over the estimated lifespan of the projects and requires an investment of just over $7,500.That initial investment is recouped within the first year, and over the lifespan of the projects, an additional $100,000 would be saved in water and energy costs.

Within Anoka County, Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids and Anoka High School in Anoka were both analyzed. Implementation of the 486 projects identified would cost approximately $100,000 and provide a net savings of over $135,000 over the lifespan of the projects. The total water savings over the life of the projects is estimated to be over 43 million gallons. The detailed reports are available on ACD's website.

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Winter Buckthorn Treatment is Underway

Common and glossy buckthorn are common invaders in native landscapes; common buckthorn grows mostly in upland environments while glossy buckthorn grows in wetland environments. ACD is working to control buckthorn at sites that still have intact native plant communities and rare plants to ensure those quality sites do not become further degraded. Work this winter is taking place at Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, and Blaine Preserve SNA with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

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Welcome Supervisor Werdien!

Colleen Werdien is a Minnesota native, growing up with her family in Mounds View before moving to Anoka County 25 years ago. She settled first in Columbia Heights, but seven years ago when she saw an article in the paper about an old house for sale that was originally built in 1852, she decided to move to the city of Anoka very near the banks of the Rum River.

Growing up, nature was always easily accessible for Colleen. In her childhood home, Colleen fell in love with the knee-high prairie grasses and small creek running through her backyard and the forest right across the street. Colleen carried these experiences in nature throughout her life, naming several significant places in Minnesota she loves to visit today including the Boundary Waters, Jeffers Petroglyphs in the southwest, and the prairies of Pipestone.

Her home in Anoka sits on ¾ of an acre that is largely shaded by mature trees. In her sunny boulevard, Colleen tends to a variety of native plants that are beneficial for pollinators while working to keep the invasive weeds and buckthorn at bay. If she's not out in her yard, you are most likely to find Colleen pursuing one of her many artistic interests from pottery to felt and wool, and from drawing to playing the ukulele and piano!

Colleen is already an active member of her community working with several local organizations and volunteer groups. She is an active member of the Andover Pollinator Awareness Project as well as the Anoka County Master Gardeners, both of which allow her to work with and advocate for the native prairie plants and flowers she adores. In addition, Colleen volunteers for her church and serves on the HRA Board working to purchase and revitalize homes that have fallen into disrepair.

Still, Colleen felt the desire to do more for her community to make an impact. She has been concerned about the state of our natural resources her whole life and when she learned of the work ACD does, she knew she would be able to make a big impact in conservation work throughout the county as a supervisor.

We are thrilled to welcome Colleen Werdien to the ACD Board of Supervisors representing District 1. 

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Hold the Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Waters

Minnesotans love their lakes, but we've got a growing problem with salt pollution. In this brand new short video produced by our partners in Washington County, the problem of chloride pollution is explained with easy-to-understand cartoon graphics and fun narration. The video also offers suggestions on what the general public can do to help protect Minnesota's waters from salt pollution!

The video is a great outreach tool for school or youth group sessions or for sharing on social media. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/Io-zTw5Yb6g

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Look Out for Oriental Bittersweet

Now that there are no leaves on the trees, it is a good time to look for Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). This invasive species is on the ERADICATE list. It is a vine that girdles and smothers trees and shrubs. Look for the bright red fruit with yellow capsules.

Be sure to check your ID with the native American bittersweet, which has orange fruit capsules instead of yellow. American bittersweet fruits are found only at the end of the vine while Oriental bittersweet has fruit at the leaf axils.

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Comprehensive Planning Just Got More Comprehensive

Ten-year comprehensive plans are the foundation for many agency operations. We embarked on our planning process in the fall of 2018. It has been a long journey, with unexpected turns. Where we landed is not anything like I originally imagined. It is a product of the process, made better by the expertise and insight of many partners. While we may be situated in a landscape dominated by shifting sands, we are poised to have our operations solidly grounded in our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Managing natural resources is a complicated endeavor. They are all interconnected. Changes to one resource cascade into changes in the others. As we set out on this journey, we grappled with how to compartmentalize natural resource management so we could structure a plan. Should it be by habitat type: lakes, river, wetlands, prairies, savannas, and forests; by land cover: agriculture, residential, commercial, open space; by what we value and use: drinking water, recreation, wildlife, food, or by what we need to fix: invasive species, flooding, contamination, erosion, depletion? With guidance of ACD's Board of Supervisors, we distilled it to the most fundamental elements of ecosystems: land, water, air, and biota. After dropping 'air' for lack of jurisdiction and programs to act at the necessary scale, and splitting water into surface water and groundwater, we had the foundation for discussing and managing Anoka County ecosystem components.

We engaged technical panels of experts to discuss each of the four topics: soils, surface water, groundwater and biota to discern sixteen root benefits provided, both intrinsic and anthropocentric. A vote on the relative importance of these benefits provided a ranking; shown below in order of priority from left to right and top to bottom.

Thereafter, the Technical Advisory Committees identified the fundamental threats to those benefits. The ensuing list to contain or diminish the threats became our twenty-four objectives. Those objectives split into 70 strategies. This is where it got complicated. Because each objective could apply to multiple resources, and each strategies could apply to multiple objectives, the number of cross-connections was mounting, and not in a way that we could manage or represent in our comprehensive plan. At that point, someone suggested that the spreadsheet, wherein this complicated matrix of resources, threats, objectives and strategies was growing, should be part of the plan; published in its current form. This idea took root and empowered us to keep building onto what we've come to call The Matrix. Now, fully incorporating 281 actions along with coefficients of efficacy at multiple levels along with unit costs, The Matrix provides a means to consider the return on investment of every potential action for every resource benefit. The nearly 3000 rows of actions can be displayed quickly in countless configurations employing easy-to-use data analysis tools. The structure facilitates the creation of annual plans and can be easily modified to integrate new technologies and practices as the science and practice of natural resource management evolves. Over the next four weeks we will be unveiling this work product and look forward to receiving input from our partners and stakeholders as we strive to improve the way we serve Anoka County residents.

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Thanks to Outgoing ACD Supervisor Steve Laitinen

ACD thanks Steve Laitinen for his service on our board of supervisors since 2016. Steve's term ends at the end of 2020. His passion for natural resources management has been an asset and contributed to numerous projects.

Steve has represented District I. This area includes Anoka, Coon Rapids, Nowthen, Oak Grove, Ramsey and St. Francis. It also includes several natural resources, such as the Rum River, that are of particular importance to Steve and the residents he represents.

Steve's passion for the Rum River is particularly apparent in his work at the ACD. Within Anoka County, he has sought collaborative water quality efforts as our liaison to the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations. Beyond Anoka County, he has been ACD's representative on the Policy Committee for the Rum River One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P). That Policy Committee consists of elected officials from 18 counties, SWCDs and watershed organizations from Lake Mille Lacs to Anoka.

During Steve's leadership, ACD has prolifically completed projects for the Rum River. Accomplishments include 31 riverbank stabilizations and six projects that treat stormwater that previously drained untreated to the Rum River. ACD will continue or increase this pace with recently secured grants for over $1.5M in riverbank stabilizations, stormwater treatment, public outreach, and other projects.

"I'd describe Steve as engaged and helpful," says Jamie Schurbon, ACD's Watershed Projects Manager. "As an example, Steve often has arrived to board meetings early, then used the time to come to my office to chat about projects. He wasn't 'checking up' on me, but rather was 'checking in' so that he could make informed decisions in his role."

"We'll miss Steve's broad knowledge base and analytical skills," states ACD District Manager Chris Lord.

We wish Steve all the best in his next community service endeavors! 

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What is an As-Built, and Why is it Important?

ACD recently led a project that improved the water quality benefits provided by two stormwater ponds adjacent to Martin Lake in Linwood Township. The project increased the size and depth of the ponds to the maximum extent practicable within the limited spaces available. The projects were a great success, and were recently highlighted in an outreach article titled, 'Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes'. They're worth mentioning again in order to highlight a critical piece of successful construction management that most people never see, the as-built survey.

As-built surveys, also commonly referred to as record drawings, provide formal documentation of exactly how a project was installed. They document the actual results of the construction project rather than the planned layout shown in the project design and are critical for project closeout.

As-built surveys ensure the project was built to meet the specifications in the original plan set. This allows the project engineer to confidently sign-off that the project was installed as per the plan. If any deviations from the original plan were approved during the construction process, the as-built survey will show the changes as they were installed and provide an opportunity to formally document those changes. Final payment to the contractor is also typically withheld until engineer sign-off on the as-built survey.

The as-built survey also provides a formal record that can be used to standardize how a project should be maintained over its lifespan. In the event of these stormwater ponds, accumulated sediment and debris should be periodically removed to achieve the original design depths in order to ensure the ponds continue to function at maximum efficacy.

Depending on the type and scale of a project, multiple as-built surveys may be completed throughout the construction process to confirm critical elevations and layouts are being met prior to approving advancement to the next construction step. They are typically shown as an overlay on the original plan sheet to allow a direct comparison and easy identification of any significant deviations from the original plan.

The 228th Place stormwater pond as-built (see plan sheet below) documented key elevations around the pond to ensure safe side slopes were achieved. It also documented the stabilized outlet and controlled overflow elevation to ensure neighboring properties were not at risk of flooding as a result of the project.

As-built surveys and the associated formal documentation they provide can sometimes be neglected because project installation went smoothly and according to plan, but they are a critical component to successful construction management and project closeout.

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2020 Anoka County Outstanding Conservationist – City of Blaine

The Anoka Conservation District selected the City of Blaine as the 2020 Anoka County Outstanding Conservationist. The City of Blaine has over 800 acres of dedicated open space throughout the City creating greenway corridors, opportunities to protect and restore biological diversity, and outdoor education and recreational opportunities. The Blaine Wetland Sanctuary is one of the City's open space sites serving many functions. The northern and central portions of the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary are being restored to increase diversity and are enrolled as wetland banks, which will generate funds for the City to maintain and update the city's parks, trails and open spaces. The protected open space is a refuge for the rare plants currently existing there and also has a diversity of micro habitats to accept salvaged rare plants. The City of Blaine has promoted and facilitated environmental education at the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary and public engagement with invasive species work parties and planting salvaged rare plants. The City of Blaine has had the difficult task of turning once ignored and undesired wetlands into a community resource. A special thanks to Rebecca Haug for her collaboration on projects of mutual interest, and city council member Swanson and Mayor Ryan have been strong advocates for conservation work.

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Clean Water Funds for Eroding Rum Riverbanks

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is recommending $440,000 in funding to ACD from the Clean Water Fund[1] competitive grant fund for stabilizing eroding Rum Riverbanks. This funding will be used in conjunction with funds already received from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council[2] ($816,000 to ACD) and the DNR Conservation Partners Legacy[3] grant ($185,000 to Anoka County Parks) for Rum Riverbank stabilization and habitat enhancement projects. These three funding sources will cover projects of all sizes, from small banks only needing cedar tree revetments to large failing banks requiring sophisticated engineering and reconstruction. The funds from the Clean Water Fund grant will be prioritized for the latter.

With additional matching funds from Anoka County, the Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs, ACD and landowners, over $1.5M-worth of streambank projects will be installed over the next three years to help the Rum River. The Rum River is a highly prized resource in Anoka County, but it is on the brink of impairment for phosphorus concentrations, and it has extensive bank erosion. The sediment washing into the river from these eroding banks dirties the water, increases nutrients, and smothers habitat for aquatic wildlife. ACD performed a streambank erosion analysis[4] from 2017 to 2019 that led to this concerted effort by ACD and Anoka County to secure state grant funding and local matching funds to make a big push to help the River. 

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