2019 Precipitation in Minnesota

2019 was another banner year for precipitation in Minnesota, with over 20 individual annual precipitation records set, and the state turning in its wettest year on record.

Precipitation totals for the year exceeded 30 inches over all but about 5-10% of the state, mainly in far northern Minnesota, with totals exceeding 50 inches in parts of southern and southeastern Minnesota. Well over half of the state was 12-20 inches (or 50-70%) wetter than normal. Annual surpluses of that magnitude over such a large area contributed to 2019 being Minnesota's wettest year on record, on a statewide-average basis, with an average of 35.51 inches. This eclipsed the old record of 33.93 inches, set in 1977.

Although no climate observing station was able to break the statewide individual annual precipitation record of 60.21 inches set by Harmony in 2018, many stations with over 50 years of observations did break their own annual precipitation records. Rochester International Airport led the pack with 55.16 inches, breaking its old record by more than 11 inches.

The Twin Cities International airport, part of the longest station history in the state, had just broken its record in 2016, but broke it again in 2019, with 44.17 inches. Other records fell throughout the state. The majority of these stations broke records that had been set this decade.

Even closer to home, the ACD has utilized the precipitation data collected by our volunteer observers to assist with putting our monitoring well data in context. We have observed sustained wetland hydrology because of the abundance of precipitation. How this will affect how wetlands are managed in the present and future will need to be addressed by the current wetland regulatory rules and by utilizing the data we collect when reviewing wetland delineations.

This information is provided at the DNR Climate website:https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/journal/top-weather-and-climate-stories-2010s.html

Here is a partial list of the records set this year.


Station

2019 Precip records (in.)

Previous record(yr.)

Rochester

55.16

43.94 (1990)

Owatonna

53.50

48.40 (2016)

Zumbrota

48.60

45.52 (2010)

Lake City

43.85

43.59 (2002)

Minneapolis - St. Paul

43.17

40.32 (2016)

Mora

43.08

41.63 (2010)

U of M St. Paul

42.95

41.67 (2016)

St. Cloud

41.92

41.01 (1897)

Itasca U of M

37.59

35.64 (1985)




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ACD Receives Grant for Abandoned Well Sealing Cost-share Program

In Anoka County, 330,000 residents (94% of the population) depend on groundwater for drinking water, using about 12 billion gallons annually.

In 2015, Anoka County identified more than 2,300 properties in Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) that have a high potential of having an unused/unsealed well (see map to left). These abandoned wells pose a risk to human health by providing a direct, unmaintained conduit where contaminants, such as pesticides, nutrients, heavy metals, salts, hydrocarbons, and pathogens, can be introduced into groundwater drinking water supplies.

Anoka Conservation District (ACD) was awarded a Clean Water Fund grant to coordinate a cost-share program to financially incentivize Anoka County property owners to hire licensed professionals to seal abandoned wells in high priority areas (i.e. within DWSMAs).Through targeted outreach, ACD will identify landowners interested in participating, and the program will provide funding to seal up to 125 abandoned wells.


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ACD Awarded a State Grant for Carp Mgmt. at Linwood & Martin Lakes

A State grant has been awarded for carp management at Linwood, Martin and Typo Lakes and is set to begin in 2020. This $148,000 grant is funded through the Clean Water Fund and will build on the successes of the current carp management program. Contributions from the Martin Lakers Association, Linwood Lake Association, and the Sunrise Watershed Management Organization will assist in funding the grant. ACD will be the grant recipient and help coordinate partnerships between private contractors, volunteers, and local organizations. The state took notice of the success the current program is having and saw that continuing work in this area of Anoka County should be a priority, ranking the project #3 out of nearly 100 applications statewide​.

Carp management over the last 3 years, funded by a different grant, was able to remove enough carp from the lakes to reach the halfway mark of the total reduction goal. Similar techniques will be continued over the next 3 years. A private contractor will develop management plans specific to each lake. Large box-nets will be installed in priority areas and be baited with bags of cracked corn. Throughout the season the nets will be harvested by the contractor and local volunteers. The nets will be maintained by residents who live near the harvesting sites and ACD staff​.

Carp populations have the ability to grow quickly and can be devastating to overall lake health if left unmanaged. This grant is focused on improving water quality, help reduce seasonal algae blooms and improve the habitat and life cycle for other game fish.

This grant is the fruition of hard work and support from many individuals and organizations. By continuing to plan and build strong local partnerships, these lakes are on track to meet management goals and prevent carp population increases that would likely cause declining water quality.

If you live on Linwood, Martin or Typo Lakes and would like to learn more about the program or would like to inquire about volunteering, please contact the ACD office. (763) 434-2030.

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Natural Resources Management Often Starts With a Party

Managing natural resources is mostly about engaging people.While one landowner can make a change, groups of people can make big change.If you want to gather people to a cause, you'll need a party.

At the Anoka Conservation District we have the pleasure of being invited to many such parties.Lake associations, sporting groups, and civic groups gather people to summer barbeques, fall bonfires and winter fundraisers.Ideas for natural resources management are developed.Enthusiasm spreads.Funds are raised.Trusting relationships grow.It's arguably the foundation of natural resources management.

While we at the Anoka Conservation District are wonderfully proud of our part in natural resources management, we recognize that we are just a part.Here's a big word of THANKS to all those volunteers and groups that have parties that lead to cleaner lakes, healthy forests, and abundant wildlife!

Below are photos of a few great parties in 2019.

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Lawns to Legumes in Anoka County

The Anoka Conservation District, in partnership with the cities of Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, and Andover, were awarded $40,000 from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to establish a Lawns to Legumes Demonstration Neighborhood in the Mississippi and Rum River Corridor. The project will convert residential lawns into pollinator habitat in support of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and other at-risk pollinators. Residents interested in being part of a Demonstration Neighborhood in Anoka County should complete this form: bit.ly/lawns-legumes-anoka

In addition, there are several other ways to get involved:

  • 1.Visit the Board of Water and Soil Resources website to learn more and download free resources: bwsr.state.mn.us/L2L
  • 2.Sign up for a Lawns to Legumes Workshop near you: bluethumb.org/events (Landowner workshop will be scheduled in Anoka County in summer of 2020)
  • 3.All residents may be eligible for individual mini-grant funding up to $350. Apply here: bluethumb.org/lawns-to-legumes

If you have any questions about how the Lawns to Legumes Program will work in Anoka County or how you can be involved, please reach out! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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ACD Receives Funding for Weed Management Grants

ACD received funding from BWSR to continue the Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area program and received two sources of MDA funding for Anoka County invasive species control and for Metro-wide non-native Phragmites treatment.

The Anoka Cooperative Weed Management Area Program currently consists of 27 Partners who have identified priority invasive species of concern, locations and activities in Anoka County. ACD received the maximum funding of $15,000 to be utilized in three years. Renewal/BWSR Request for Proposals are offered every two years. Current BWSR funds will support:

  • mapping and monitoring priority invasive species on EDDMaps,
  • surveys in select high quality habitats,
  • implementation of biocontrol release,
  • monitoring past treatment,
  • training a new partner, Anoka County Highway staff on invasive species identification and treatment, including wild parsnip sites identified on Anoka Highway ROW,
  • organizing and creating outreach material and expanding the ACWMA website to provide a central location for ACWMA resources,
  • provide outreach and engagement with City Staff, residents, and volunteers,
  • and, provide technical and financial resources for invasive species cost share program for priority invasive species and priority locations.

ACD received the maximum funding from MDA Level 1, $10,000, to be spent in 2020. These funds will increase the capacity of the ACWMA efforts and specifically support:

  • Invasive species trainings and volunteer engagement in invasive species control in Anoka County, including a training to Anoka County Master Gardeners in April 2020.
  • Mapping and monitoring priority invasive species and surveys in high quality habitats.
  • Release knapweed root weevil (Cyphocleonus achates) and knapweed flower weevils (Larinus minutus obtusus) biocontrol at two sites.
  • Provide training to Anoka County Highway to identify and control priority invasive species, starting with wild parsnip by June 2020.
  • Treat all known populations of wild parsnip in Anoka County by July 2020.
  • Follow up treatment of golden creeper with digging out roots and June 2020 and herbicide application of any remaining plants by September 2020.
  • Conduct a land management and invasive speices workshop to City of Blaine residents in September 2020. By mid-November 2020, provide technical and financial support for buckthorn treatment to landowners adjacent to the Blaine Wetland Sancturary, treating 12 acres of buckthorn. I'm collaborating with Rebecca Haug/City of Blaine, Beth Carreno/RCWD and Metro Blooms.

ACD received $49,705 from MDA Level 2 to be spent over two years to map, treat, and monitor non-native Phragmites in the Metro. Metro County Partners will continue mapping and will obtain permission from landowners to treat with herbicide and mowing. ACD will coordinate monitoring following MN DNR protocols, will hire a contractor for treatment, and lead native planting/restoration at Sunrise Lake which was previously treated.

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2019 ACD Monitoring Season

2019 was another successful monitoring season for The Anoka Conservation District (ACD). Strong partnerships with watershed districts, watershed management organizations, and local lake associations, allowed ACD to implement a variety of monitoring programs including; daily precipitation totals (12 volunteers), lake levels (25 lakes), lake water quality (11 lakes), stream hydrology (12 sites), stream water quality (18 sites), stream benthic macroinvertebrates (3 Anoka County schools), shallow groundwater levels in wetlands (19 sites) and deep groundwater levels in observation wells (24 sites).

2019 ended up being the wettest year on record for the state of Minnesota with a state-wide average of 35.51 inches, breaking the previous record of 33.93 inches set in 1977. Due to the banner year Minnesota had with rainfall, we saw historically high water levels in lakes and streams and higher than average groundwater levels in many wetlands and groundwater wells. 2019 was a great year for overall water quality, with many of the lakes and streams showing improvements compared to the historical average.

With a growing population and ever-increasing development, it is more important than ever to have the ability to make informed decisions when it comes to land use management and for local leaders to have an understanding of how those decisions may affect natural resources. Water resources are rapidly declining in quality and quantity throughout the metro. Anoka County is fortunate enough to still have many pristine natural areas but it will take a team effort to keep them that way.

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Rum River Central Regional Park Riverbank Stabilization

The Anoka Conservation District partnered with Anoka County Parks to stabilize 310' of eroding riverbank within Rum River Central Regional Park. Prior to the project, the bank was severely eroding and undermining sections of a paved trail. The stabilization project is now complete and included the following elements:

  • Minimal riprap at the bottom of the slope within the zone of frequent water level fluctuation where vegetation does not grow well,
  • Grading above the riprap to the top of the slope (3H:1V), seeding with native vegetation, and installation of an erosion control blanket,
  • Relocation of the paved trail to ensure sufficient separation between the trail and the new top of slope, and
  • Dormant willow stakes were installed in November 2019 as the final phase of the project.

Stabilization of the bank will prevent 100 tons of sediment annually from entering the Rum River. Multiple State and local funding sources were used to complete the project.

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Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Recommends Funds for Rum River Stabilization Projects

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is recommending $952,000 from the Outdoor Heritage Fund for ACD to stabilize eroding Rum Riverbanks utilizing habitat-building, bioengineering approaches over the next three years. Bioengineering techniques stabilize and armor eroding riverbanks in a way that both protects the bank from further erosion and provides traversable habitat for wildlife. These techniques rely on using natural materials such as tree trunks and root wads, in-stream rock weirs, native plantings and tree staking, gradual slope grading, and minimal hard armoring where necessary. Current erosion along streambanks, as well as traditional armoring techniques like riprap, result in a wall or barrier to wildlife. The bioengineering techniques that will be employed by ACD in the Rum River will eliminate those barriers and provide additional habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

ACD has identified over twenty eroding banks along the Rum River in Anoka County that it will be seeking to address with these funds. It is anticipated that four to eight sites will be stabilized with the $952,000 from the LSOHC and an additional $236,000 in local funds from Anoka County and the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations. Anoka County has pledged $442,000 in Rum River stabilization matching funds over the next five years. The remaining funds will be used as match for future grant applications.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has made the funding recommendation to the Minnesota Legislature, who will draft final bill language during the 2020 legislative session. ACD will begin reaching out to landowners with identified eroding banks suitable for these stabilization techniques after the funding is finalized.

  Example photo of an eroding Rum Riverbank stabilized with bioengineering techniques. This project was the result of the continuing partnership between ACD and Anoka County Parks.

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Leaving a Legacy on the Land through Easements

Written by: Jamie Schurbon, Watershed Projects Manager

When I was young, there was a woodlot in the neighborhood where kids, including me, roamed. It was along the river, where there were frogs to be caught. We built forts. We played games. It felt like 100 acres, but in hindsight was probably just a few. That natural area was, apart from the people, a most memorable part of the neighborhood.

What's the best part of your neighborhood? Perhaps it's a woodlot on your own property. Or a wetland the provides a little privacy. Or just a few big mature trees. We get joy from living in natural surroundings big or small. When these things are lost, the neighborhood seems to sigh in disappointment (and some folks get downright upset).

Conservation easements are one tool available to landowners who want to ensure their land is kept natural for the long term, as a legacy for the community. Conservation easements pay landowners in exchange for a restriction on certain types of changes, such as clearing and building, to the land in the future. The easement runs with the land and applies to future owners.

The newest easement program available in Anoka County focuses on properties along the Rum River. Riverbank properties are critical to the scenic and recreational qualities of the river, as well as the river's ecological quality. The program pays 60% of the assessed value of the land. You set the easement boundaries. You retain ownership. The land does not become open to the public.

Easements are purchased strategically. While many lands are eligible, not all are competitive candidates. Those that score highest are parts of larger high quality natural areas and will not become "islands" within development. Easements should help retain community character and be consistent with anticipated growth.

If you are interested in having your land considered for a conservation easement, please contact Carrie Taylor at 763-434-2030 ext. 19 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Landscaping for Wildlife

This may not seem like the time of year to be planning for habitat improvements on your property, but if you want to take advantage of good prices on bare root trees and shrubs, now is the time to order. Anoka Conservation District's annual tree sale is a great place to start.

When asked by property owners what they can do to attract wildlife to their property, I start with the basic; 1) minimize mowing, and 2) provide food, water, shelter, and plenty of space.


Food: Flowers, fruit, buds, twigs, seeds, nectar, and foliage are food for many of our local birds, insects, and small mammals. These little critters are in turn, food for larger animals. If you build from the bottom up, and create habitat for the smallest creatures, the larger ones will follow and your habitat will be more stable. Planting trees, shrubs, flowering plants, and grasses will all get you heading in the right direction. Use native species to ensure they attract wildlife from this area.

Water: If you have a natural water source, like a pond, wetland, lake or river, you are all set. Flowing water attracts the most wildlife, but still water works well too. If you plan to add an artificial water source, everything from a simple bird bath to a fancy water feature like a lined pond with flowing water and pump, will bring in everything from birds and butterflies, to frogs and deer.


Shelter: Shelter comes in natural and manufactured forms. Bird and bat houses are options, as are wood or rock piles. Consider leaving fallen trees to lay on the ground or dead standing trees to remain, if they aren't a safety concern. Plant trees and shrubs for nesting. Even tall native grasses provide good cover for deer and birds to bed down in.

Space: Animals have varied needs in terms of space. Some defend large areas while others live in harmony with close neighbors. Whether or not you have a small urban oasis or 40 acres of wild open space, if you provide food, water, and shelter, it will attract wildlife to fill the available space. Curb your expectations to the limits of your property and do a little research on any particular species you are hoping to draw in.

Some landscape features you may want to consider:

  • butterfly gardens
  • frog ponds
  • native prairie gardens
  • shrub groves
  • rock or brush piles
  • bird baths
  • feeders
  • pollinator garden
  • hummingbird garden

For a complete brochure on the topic, visit;  https://www.anokaswcd.org/index.php/backyard-habitat.html

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919 Hits

Minnesota's Changing Climate

Flooding in a Southwestern MN Ag. Field

Minnesota is one of the states most impacted by climate change. Official precipitation and temperature data has been collected in Minnesota from 1895 through today, showing some striking statistics about our changing climate:

  • 13% increase in the size of the heaviest annual rainfall.
  • Since 2000, rains of more than 6" are four times more frequent than the previous 30 years prior.
  • 65% increase in the number of 3" rains.
  • Average temperatures in Minnesota have warmed by 3˚F since 1895.
  • Overall, Minnesota's climate is warmer and wetter.


These changes are impacting Minnesota's wildlife, forests, water quality, infrastructure, and outdoor recreation (especially winter sports). Below are some links to MN DNR infographic GIFs that shows the change to our 30-year average winter temperature and 30-year average yearly precipitation:

 

Sinkhole in Duluth Following a 7"+ Rainfall
As you can see, Minnesota's winters are warming dramatically, with the 9˚ contour moving  north by as much as 150 miles. Similarly, the 26" contour for precipitation has migrated roughly 100 miles to the Northwest.

We witnessed the impact of elevated precipitation in 2012 when the most damaging flood in Duluth's recorded history began when heavy rains fell over already saturated ground on June 19th and 20th. At the Duluth National Weather Service (NWS) the rainfall total for those two days was 7.24 inches. A NWS volunteer observer in Two Harbors recorded the storm's largest value of 10.45 inches in 24 hours.

The aftermath included millions of dollars of insurance losses to repair roads, bridges, homes and businesses. Many homes foundations were damaged extensively and the houses were razed. One state highway (MN 23) was closed for 3 years while it was repaired. The City of Duluth has had to adapt their stormwater infrastructure to withstand events that 30 years ago were considered 500-year events, but now happen regularly. In June 2018, just southeast of Duluth, the area received up to 10" of rain and once again damaged Highway 23.

Here in Anoka County, we've witnessed a similar story in 2019, with all of the monitored lakes, rivers, and streams in the County reaching historic water level averages for the year. This increase in precipitation only solidifies the need for comprehensive watershed management to make sure that our infrastructure and waterways can handle the increased erosion and flow produced by this additional rain. 

 Interested in learning more? Check out MN Pollution Control Agency's Climate Change in Minnesota webpage or the MN Department of Natural Resources Climate Data

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New Outreach Collaborative Builds Lasting Partnerships in Anoka County

Investment in water education is vital for the continued health of the environment and people. By building strong new partnerships, the Water Resource Outreach Collaborative (WROC) in Anoka County is doing just that.

The purpose of this shared outreach and engagement partnership is to inform community residents, businesses, staff, and decision-makers about issues affecting local waterbodies and groundwater resources. Through enhancement of existing outreach programming and collaborative development of new programming, WROC engages people in activities and individual behavior changes that will positively impact the health of our surface and groundwater.

Through collaboration, WROC partners are able to maximize the effectiveness of their water outreach. Partners benefit from regular resource sharing, consistent messaging, and reduced duplication of effort. Outreach efficiency is maximized because partners are able to pool their resources to develop professional materials with minimal financial stress on any one organization. Many water health outreach topics are common between partners, so having a centralized group to facilitate delivery of those topics has proven vital. Finally, through increased communication between partners, there is greater cross-coordination and promotion of events, thus extending the reach of individual partner programs.

Since January 2019, Anoka County's Water Resource Outreach Collaborative has created new resources including a Conservation Resource Library and a brochure, display, and animated video on groundwater. In addition, the Collaborative has had a presence at 40 community outreach events throughout the county and facilitated or collaborated with partners to host 22 workshops, presentations, and trainings. Notable activities from the past year include presenting to over 630 5th graders in 7 schools in the county, hosting the best-attended private well and septic system training in with 58 attendees compared to 8-12 attendees in previous years, and hosting two smart salting trainings for 85 road maintenance staff from several previously untrained municipalities including Oak Grove, Columbus, Nowthen, Linwood Township, St. Francis, and Ramsey.

In the future, the Anoka County Water Resource Outreach Collaborative will continue partnering to reach new and diverse audiences with messages of water health and conservation. The WROC partnership is an investment in the future of water education in our area. Prioritizing public education is critical to empowering everyone to act as water stewards and create a healthier world for future generations.

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Cut back on Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Infrastructure, Water Quality, and Aquatic Wildlife

The Twin Cities Metro applies 350,000 tons of road salt every year, but have you ever wondered where it goes when winter ends?

Stormwater and snowmelt carry dissolved road salt into lakes, streams, and groundwater when winter thaws out. Chloride, a major part of road salt compounds, is especially stubborn in water. Once it dissolves, there is no feasible method to remove chloride from water, and stormwater treatment solutions like stormwater ponds and rain gardens are ineffective at removing chloride. Instead, chloride gradually accumulates in our water bodies, harming fish and other aquatic life. The corrosive nature of road salt also contributes between $350 million and $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs each year to the Metro area alone.

What can we do about it?

Here are some helpful tips you can use to make your driveways and sidewalks safer and better for the environment this winter:

Shovel!

Salt is never a substitute for shoveling. Shovel your snow and ice first so that salt is only used for melting ice stuck to the ground.

Salt!

Traditional salt (sodium chloride) does not melt ice when the temperature is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a low-temperature alternative such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride to melt ice at lower temperatures or use sand to add traction. There is no such thing as an "environmentally friendly" salt, so it's best to stick to salt that will work in the given range of temperatures.

Scatter!

Did you know you only need a 12-oz. mug of salt to effectively de-ice a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares? When applying salt, aim to leave 2" between grains.

Sweep!

Sweeping up leftover salt and reusing it later is a great way to save money and limit the amount of salt getting into nearby waterways.


 Do you hire a contractor to maintain a sidewalk, driveway, or parking lot? Check out the MPCA's list of Smart Salting certificate holders to find a contractor trained on best practices for winter maintenance: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-tr1-01.xlsx

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What we wish we knew: lessons for rain garden implementation

Over the last decade the Anoka Conservation District (ACD) has been involved in the design and construction of over 100 rain gardens in Anoka County. While the overwhelming majority fall closer to the 'ideal' end of the spectrum, we've been party to a few on the 'nasty' end as well. Properly functioning rain gardens often go unnoticed because they blend in with other landscape amenities. In contrast, the small fraction of 'nasty' rain gardens get the public's attention with nasty smells and mosquito problems. Rest assured, we've learned from our mistakes, refined our process, corrected the problematic rain gardens, and can confidently say we're now able to avoid the 'nasties'.

The lessons learned over the years have improved every aspect of rain garden location, design, installation, maintenance, and follow-up. These are our suggestions for other organizations designing and installing rain gardens.

Failed rain garden that doesn't drain between rain events

Design

  • For a standard rain garden, the water table should be at least five feet below the bottom of the garden. This will require an eight-foot-deep soil boring during the design process because the bottom of the garden is often two to three feet below the original ground elevation. Rain gardens with shallower water tables are feasible, but require an underdrain to function properly.
  • Soils should have high infiltration rates, generally one to three inches per hour. Rain gardens can be built in soils with lower infiltration rates, but may require an underdrain or a ponding depth shallower than 12".
  • If an underdrain is needed, install a control mechanism that allows variable draw down rates and levels. This provides a mechanism to capitalize on natural infiltration that may increase as the deep root structure of the native plant community matures and creates pathways for infiltration.
  • Water must be able to get into the garden consistently, predictably, and without causing erosion. The curb-cut should be sized to safely pass sufficient water volumes.
  • Utilizing a retaining wall along the back of the garden can improve the aesthetic appeal and allow the garden to store more water. Rain garden side slopes should be no steeper than 3:1. Therefore, for every foot of wall height, three feet of rain garden bottom is gained. In many cases this simple addition more than doubles the size of the garden.
  • Consider using a pretreatment chamber. A pretreatment chamber functions like a filter, capturing floatables like leaves, trash, seeds, and sediment to ensure rain gardens are able to properly receive water and dry between storms
Rain garden mid-construction, with a retaining wall and intact curb
Location
  • Rain gardens should be sited where they will capture runoff from a sizeable contributing drainage area that would otherwise make it into a priority water resource.
  • They should treat stormwater that isn't already routed to a stormwater pond or other installation for stormwater management.
  • They should be strategically located on properties where they will quickly fill during storms and quickly drain between storms.
  • They need to be located where they won't interfere with utility lines. Utility companies have minimum cover requirements over lines that may not be met following rain garden excavation. While some utilities like cable lines can be moved or lowered for a relatively low expense, others like gas and electrical lines can be cost-prohibitive to relocate when they conflict with the proposed rain garden location.
  • If a rain garden is installed in an area where the road routinely floods over the curbs, water will flow into the rain garden over the sides and cause erosion. It will also result in deeper water than intended, which will take longer to drain out.
  • If a rain garden receives water from a large neighborhood with non-natural runoff sources like irrigation systems or sump pump discharge, the rain garden may never have the chance to drain completely.
Rain garden pretreatment chamber

Installation

  • Curb-cut rain gardens are one of the few conservation practices where landowners volunteer to use their property to treat runoff from other properties. The landowner volunteering contributes relatively little to the problem and benefits relatively little from the solution. They also commonly assume maintenance responsibility for 10 years. For these reasons, local government should consider covering 100% of the construction costs.
  • Avoid equipment traffic within the garden.
  • Check soil infiltration rates. If they are under the design specification, loosen soil throughout the
  • garden with a four-foot auger.
  • Plant gardens in the spring and early summer, not in the fall.
  • Lay no more than three inches of mulch.
  • If possible, consider leaving the curb intact until the plants are established and then complete the curb-cut. Minimally, when installing a curb-cut rain garden as a retrofit, leave the curb intact until the basin is completed. This ensures the basin is stable and ready to receive runoff as soon as the curb-cut and apron are installed.
  • Install informative temporary signage during construction and permanent signage upon project completion that explains the value and function of the rain garden.
Ideal rain garden

Maintenance

This is a list of suggestions that can be provided to a homeowner after installation:

  • Get your neighborhood involved! If your neighborhood has several rain gardens, try to schedule a periodic neighborhood cleanup day.
  • Mulch will break down and should be refreshed every couple years.
  • Stay on top of weeding. Err on the side of pulling too much.
  • Homeowners should not be afraid to experiment with the plants in their rain garden. Try using native plants to encourage pollinator presence!
  • Pretreatment chambers should be cleaned out after each rain event. This should take no more than a few minutes.
  • Remove excess leaves in the fall. Having a few leaves is great for catching sediment and creating critter habitat, but too many leaves will create mats and slow down water infiltration.
  • Regularly remove sediment that makes it past the pretreatment chamber.
Community rain garden cleanup in Anoka county

Follow-Up

  • The sponsoring local government should connect annually with homeowners to remind them of maintenance needs, expectations, and flexibility.
  • Make sure homeowners know who to call if they experience problems.
  • Consider providing a maintenance program to help with plant replenishment or other incentive to keep gardens well maintained.
  • After the 10-year life of the garden, consider a refresh. Hire professionals to remove all plants, mulch, and accumulated sediment and debris, and power wash the retaining wall and pretreatment chamber. Then, add new mulch and replant, salvaging mature plants whenever possible. This relatively inexpensive investment can buy another 10 years of function.

When done right, rain gardens are an effective and beautiful method for combating pollution in lakes and streams, replenishing groundwater, and creating pollinator habitat. However, not every property or every homeowner is ideally suited to have a rain garden. While professionals at ACD can assess whether or not a property is a viable candidate, only the homeowner can decide if they are up to the task of maintaining a rain garden.

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