A Decade of Competitive Clean Water Funding: How Do Local Partners Stack Up?

The voter approved Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment increased sales tax in 2010 to create a constitutionally dedicated funding source so we could manage our natural resources for the enjoyment of current and future generations. The funds are distributed through the Clean Water Fund (CWF) to improve surface water and groundwater, the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) to improve habitat, and the Parks & Trails Fund to improve local and regional parks. The amendment expires in 2034, 25 years after it was passed. Of the three funds, the Clean Water Fund is the one most relied on by local government units to implement locally important projects and programs. During the first 10 years of competitive Clean Water Fund awards, 582 local government units submitted 2,064 successful project proposals and secured over $279M in funds to make our water resources better.

In the first decade of Clean Water Fund awards, Anoka Conservation Districts comes in at a respectable 7th of 582. With 18 successful grant applications totaling just under $4M, we've been able to do a lot of work for those who live, work and play in Anoka County. Details of all CWF projects can be found at Legacy.MN.gov.

Of course, that is only a small part of the whole story. ACD works in tandem with many partners wholly and partially within Anoka County who have also been very successful securing CWF funds and putting water management into action. You may have noticed that three of the top ten recipients statewide serve all or portions of Anoka County, including the City of St. Francis and the Rice Creek Watershed District. In total, twelve of the twenty-one cities in Anoka County, along with three of the seven water management entities have all secured CWF funds to manage surface water and groundwater resources. Many of those not listed were critical partners in project funding, installation, and maintenance. We are all working together to ensure our water resources have a bright future.

Outdoor Heritage Funds have also been a critical source of funds to support habitat management in Anoka County, but that's another story.

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Take a Kid Fishing

This past weekend (June 5-7) was the MN DNR's annual Take a Kid Fishing Weekend, but if you missed out, it's not too late to introduce a kid to the outdoors! Fishing is a great way to get kids off the couch and outside while also being a great family bonding activity. Kids under the age of 16 do not need a license to fish, and very little equipment is necessary to get started.

Anoka County offers many locations and opportunities to fish from shore, fishing piers, or other structures in all of its regional parks. No boat required! Additionally, the MN DNR's Fishing in the Neighborhood (FiN) program offers easily accessible fishing for kids and families at many other locations. All of the FiN lakes and rivers in Anoka County can be found online at: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin/anoka.html

Fishing is a relaxing activity that can get kids interested in the outdoors, and teaches skills that can be used for a lifetime of enjoyment. Even if you don't have a boat, you can spend sunny, summer days reeling in supper for the evening, or the "big one" for a picture. Either way lifelong memories will be made.

The fun doesn't have to end with summer! Fishing can be great through the fall and winter from shore, or on the ice. Fall hunting seasons in Minnesota offer up extensive outdoor recreational activity as well, with many publically accessible areas all over the state.

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ACD Receives Aquatic Invasive Species Behavior Change Grant through DNR

Anoka Conservation District, in partnership with Anoka County Parks, received a MNDNR behavior change grant in the amount of $4,992.74 to pilot a strategy to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species. The pilot behavior change intervention strategy will be delivered to the target audience of boaters and anglers through the installation of new boat cleaning equipment at 5 high traffic boat launches and education provided by on-site AIS inspectors. The project will influence positive behavior change in boaters and anglers by removing barriers such as lack of access to tools/equipment for properly cleaning boats/trailers, lack of space to clean boat or pressure caused by high-traffic boat launches, and lack of knowledge of how to use cleaning tools/equipment. We will lay the groundwork by conducting research on baseline boater behavior this summer, install the weed removal stations in spring of 2021, and collect observational data on weed removal station use and commitments to use the stations from boaters throughout the 2021 boating season. The results of the pilot study will be used by the DNR in future AIS behavior change strategies throughout the state.

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Spurge Euphorbia esula MN Noxious Weed: Prohibited – Control

  • 1-2 foot tall
  • Greenish-yellow flower bracts
  • Simple and opposite leaves
  • A white, milky sap exudes if the stem or leaves are cut
  • Grows in full to part sun in range of soil types and moisture

If you see leafy spurge, please report it on EDDMaps: www.eddmaps.org/

For more information and control methods see:

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/herbaceous/leafyspurge.html

https://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/weedcontrol/noxiouslist/leafyspurge

Biological control is an option for reducing large infestations of leafy spurge. Adult leafy spurge beetles (Aphthona lacertosa) feed on the leaves and lay eggs at the base of spurge plants. Larvae feed on the roots over the winter until they pupate and emerge as adults the following summer. See: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/weedcontrol/noxiouslist/leafyspurge/leafyspurge

Photo at Anoka Nature Preserve. 7.3.2019
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LCCMR Environmental Education Grant Application

In collaboration with the Metro Conservation Districts, ACD applied for a 2021 LCCMR Environmental Education grant in the amount of $546,000. If funded, the proposed project would influence perceptions, practices, and policies surrounding ecoscaping in the 11-county metro area by launching a multi-pronged outreach campaign, elevating the educational value of high-profile demonstration projects, and engaging local leaders to adopt eco-friendly policies. The proposed project involves a rigorous barriers and benefits analysis using the proven Community Based Social Marketing framework to identify common barriers faced by residents that limit the widespread acceptance and adoption of eco-friendly lawn care practices. The project will promote the benefits of ecoscaping and create a widespread conservation ethic, particularly in suburban Minnesota. This work is important because turf lawns are unsustainable for the long-term health of our waters and wildlife. While eco-friendly lawn care practices are growing more popular, social norms and misinformation hinder widespread adoption of these practices. Only by addressing the public's perception of ecoscaping, the policies related to preserving and restoring native landscapes, and the practices at all levels of the community will we be able to eliminate barriers and motivate large-scale behavior change.

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Save Money and Water!

Spring is here. If you have an irrigation system for your yard, you likely already have it up and running or are considering doing so within the next month. Now is the time when you're setting the watering duration and frequency for each zone in your yard. These settings often remain unchanged throughout the season, which typically results in over-watering. Over-watering wastes drinkable water, and assuming you don't have a private well, it also wastes money.

This year, in addition to following city restrictions (e.g. odd/even watering schedules), try actively managing your irrigation controller. Active management consists of adjusting run times based on local conditions. For example, during periods with sufficient rainfall, watering duration and frequency can be reduced. During these times, you can simply turn your irrigation system off. In contrast, during periods of extreme heat and drought, supplemental watering may be necessary. Watch your yard for signs of drought before turning on your irrigation system, and rely on rainfall as much as possible. When you need to use your irrigation system, water your lawn one time or less per week with a good soaking to encourage deeper root growth, and schedule watering times in the morning to reduce evaporation associated with midday heat and wind.

An alternative to active management is a smart irrigation controller. Smart irrigation controllers use an internet connection to actively monitor local precipitation patterns and automatically adjust watering frequency and duration accordingly. Regardless of whether you choose active management or a smart irrigation controller, both are effective options for reducing water use and saving money.

Visit the University of Minnesota Extension's Lawn Care website for additional lawn management resources.

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Rain Guardian Pretreatment Chambers Featured on LIDBIT Vlog

Rain Guardian pretreatment chambers were recently featured in a new vlog focused on low impact development (LID).The vlog is called LIDBit and is coordinated by Rob Woodman with ACF Environmental.In the Rain Guardian episode, Rob interviewed Anoka Conservation District Stormwater and Shoreland Specialist, Mitch Haustein, about Rain Guardian pretreatment chamber functionality, configurations, installation, and maintenance.Check out the Rain Guardian episode and others on the LIDBit Video YouTube channel (https://tinyurl.com/vfmm9fc).

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Sheet Mulching

Sheet mulching – saves time, builds soil, and smothers existing weeds or lawn without using herbicide.

Sheet mulching is an excellent way to convert lawn to garden beds without using herbicides or excessive labor. Meanwhile it can build soil and be accomplished with readily available materials.

Begin by mowing grass or other vegetation in the area you want to convert into a new garden bed. It can be as simple as layers of newspaper or cardboard topped by four inches of mulch to smother grass and weeds underneath. If this is started in the spring, the underlying plants will have died from lack of light and the garden bed will be ready for planting in the fall.A more diverse layering of material will produce a compost that will break down and build your soil. For this, layer:

  1. Soil amendments if soil test results recommend amendments (lime, greensand, etc.). Recommended if you are creating a vegetable garden.
  2. Thin layer of compost.
  3. Wet newspaper or cardboard, 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Thin layer of nitrogen source such as manure.
  5. Layer of straw or leaves (carbon source).
  6. Continue to alternate layers of nitrogen and carbon sources.
  7. End with a top layer of mulch.

This type of bed is finished when these layers have decomposed. It may take the entire growing season to decompose sufficiently. If you start in the spring, the bed will likely be ready to plant in the fall.

See the Xerces Society Organic Site Preparation for Wildflower Establishment publication for more organic site preparation methods and directions:

https://xerces.org/publications/guidelines/organic-site-preparation-for-wildflower-establishment

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Where the Anoka Conservation District Money Goes

ACD finances historically experience dramatic variability from year to year due to activities being driven by competitive grants, several of which have been in excess of $400,000. Many state grants are from sales tax revenue dedicated to natural resource activities. ACD is committed to accessing these funds so Anoka County taxpayers will benefit from them in proportion to sales tax paid in the county. Also of note is how consistent ACD's operational and personnel costs have been. ACD staff and supervisors strive to keep overhead costs down, while expanding service

Making Sense of the Dollars: Although governed by an elected board, conservation districts do not yet have taxing authority and must secure funds from many sources to maintain programs and services. State grants are the primary funding source for project installation, while the county provides seven times what the state does to support general district operations. County funds are critical because many grants do not cover overhead expenses. Unfortunately, many grants also require matching funds, so county funds must serve as match and cover all costs ineligible under complex grant rules.

Making Dollars of the Cents: To provide comprehensive natural resource management, ACD collaborates with cities, watershed management entities, state agencies, county departments, non-profits, and landowners on projects of mutual interest. The 2019 revenue chart begins to convey this but does not show the 68 projects and programs supported by 26 distinct funding sources, many of which supported multiple projects and programs. For example, County Project Funds alone is comprised of 12 projects, and State Grants were used in part to fund 35 different initiatives 


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Trees for Bees (and other pollinators)

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Trim Oak Trees now to Prevent the Spread of Oak Wilt


Oak wilt is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. Oak wilt can be spread in two ways: 1) fungal spores travelling tree to tree through grafted roots, and 2) fungal spores spread by sap beetles that fly from infected trees or wood to healthy trees. The beetles are attracted to fresh wounds in healthy trees, and these wounds offer an introduction point for the fungus.Trimming or cutting healthy oaks from the months of November through March helps to prevent fresh wounds in healthy trees when the beetles are active. Trimming away dead and dying branches during this period can help prevent oak wilt spreading from neighboring areas to your trees. If your oak trees still need trimming before this spring, be sure to do it before the end of March. April 1 through July 15 is considered the high risk period, and all trimming of oaks should be avoided. July 15 through October 31 is considered low risk, but spread is still possible. Red oaks and pin oaks are especially susceptible to oak wilt, and once infected, a healthy tree is killed within ​months.

Unfortunately, oak wilt is very common in Anoka County. More information on prevention of the disease in your yard can be found at https://extension.umn.edu/plant-diseases/oak-wilt-minnesota
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METRO-WIDE TRAINING PROVIDED ON URBAN SUBWATERSHED ANALYSIS PROTOCOL

The Metro Conservation Districts (MCD) received a Clean Water Fund Accelerated Implementation Grant to conduct analyses that identify cost-effective water quality improvement projects for priority waterbodies.The Subwatershed Analysis (SWA) process includes protocols for both rural and urban subwatersheds.Anoka Conservation District (ACD) employee Mitch Haustein provided training on the urban protocol and modeling process to over 30 staff from counties, soil and water conservation districts, and watershed districts throughout the 11-County Metro.

Since the SWA program began in 2010, over 60 analyses have been completed throughout the 11-County Metro that have identified more than 4,000 projects and resulted in the installation of hundreds of cost-effective water quality improvement projects.

The $200,000 grant awarded to MCD, which requires a $50,000 match, will result in the completion of an additional 15 SWAs.Previously completed SWAs in Anoka County are available on ACD's website (www.AnokaSWCD.org).

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Our Groundwater Connection: Contamination Video

The second in a series of videos about groundwater was published on March 3rd, 2020. "Our Groundwater Connection: Contamination" is a follow-up to the original "Our Groundwater Connection" video published on June 11th, 2019. The video builds on the information viewers learned from the first video, focusing on how groundwater becomes contaminated and what we can do to prevent contamination. The video explains different sources of pollution, how pollutants travel and build up over time, and what happens when wells become contaminated. The video concludes with the message that "everyone has the responsibility to stop contamination from getting into our groundwater. When we work together to prevent pollution, we can ensure clean drinking water now, and for many generations to come."

The project was made possible because members of the Water Resource Outreach Collaborative pooled their resources to create a high quality product with minimal financial stress on any one organization. Partners from Washington County Public Health and Environment and the Minnesota Department of Health also provided input and support for the project.

On March 3rd, the video was debuted at the MN Rural Water Association Annual Technical Conference during a mini-session presentation by ACD's Outreach and Engagement Coordinator.

Watch on the video on YouTube by searching "Our Groundwater Connection: Contamination," or by clicking here: https://youtu.be/gRSHJpe8pq8

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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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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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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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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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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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521 Hits