Collaboration leads to watershed award

Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District leads innovative program

 

For the past three years, the City of Forest Lake, the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake (CLFLWD) and Rice Creek (RCWD) watershed districts, and 14 other local units of government have collaborated on an educational program aimed at protecting and improving area lakes, streams and rivers. Last month, the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts recognized this partnership as its 2012 Watershed Program of the Year.

The Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed encompasses roughly 47 square miles in northern Washington County and southern Chisago County, including Forest Lake. The watershed drains to the northwest to the Sunrise River, which flows northeast through Chisago County before reaching the St. Croix River. The headwaters of the Rice Creek Watershed are located in Clear Lake, Hardwood Creek and Clearwater Creek. Water then flows through the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes and eventually empties into the Mississippi River in Fridley.

Since 2009, CLFLWD, RCWD and the City of Forest Lake have collaborated with Washington County, the Washington Conservation District and several nearby cities and watershed organizations to form the East Metro Water Resource Education Program. Through this program, the partners have worked to raise awareness and understanding about water resource issues and promote practices such as native plantings, raingardens and low-impact lawn care that help to reduce polluted runoff, especially near priority water bodies.

The watershed districts also offer cost-share grants, free site visits and project designs to area residents to make it easier for people to do water-friendly landscaping projects on their properties.

In addition to educating the public, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program also provides training for municipal staff and officials to help local communities protect and improve their water resources. One example of this is a workshop series known as Stormwater U, which trains county and municipal staff on how to manage stormwater runoff during development, redevelopment and road improvement projects using practices that treat the polluted runoff and help to increase groundwater recharge.

Board members from CLFLWD and RCWD received their award at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts, which was held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Alexandria.

In 2013, the partnership will continue its efforts to protect and improve local water resources through education and outreach. Planned activities include workshops for Forest Lake and Scandia area residents on how to build raingardens, how to maintain native shoreline plantings, and how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

In addition, the City of Forest Lake plans to work with the CLFLWD on projects at Castlewood Golf Course (Stella’s on 97) and at the intersection of Hayward and North Shore Trail that will keep polluted runoff out of Forest Lake.

To learn more about the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake and Rice Creek watershed districts, including how to apply for grants and technical assistance for clean-water landscaping, visit www.clflwd.org or www.ricecreek.org. Learn more about the educational partnership at www.mnwcd.org/cleanwater.

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