The Rice Creek Watershed District last year completed its largest drainage system maintenance project to date on Brown’s Preserve in Forest Lake and Columbus. The project resulted in restored wetlands and a more effective drainage system.
Brown’s Preserve was established as a state wildlife management area in 1988 when Henry and Elaine Houle of Forest Lake donated half the property and sold the other half to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Their intent in participating in a state conservation program was to preserve the site as a wildlife habitat and public hunting grounds.
The Watershed District purchased the former 80-acre Wildlife Management Area from the DNR in 2012 for $220,000. The primary goal of the project was to reroute the aging Anoka-Washington Judicial Ditch No. 4, which no longer provided enough drainage to meet agricultural and municipal needs. The ditch, previously running through the middle of Brown’s Preserve, was rerouted to run along its eastern border.
The project provided a more predictable and adequate source of water to the wetlands and restored wetland plants. Also, the original channel on the property, developed in 1915, was reopened to create an open-water habitat. Overall, these improvements will lead to more native plants and wildlife habitat. Wetlands also provide benefits such as filtering pollutants and recharging groundwater levels.
The Watershed District worked with local residents to place easements on this property to provide greater future protection of the area. Monitoring will occur over the next three years. In the interest of public safety, public access to the former wildlife management area will not be allowed during this time.
The Watershed District sold an acre to Connexus Energy for a proposed electrical substation to offset a portion of the project’s cost.
Watershed District’s mission is to prevent flooding and enhance water quality in harmony with development for the common good. For more information, visit the Rice Creek Watershed District website, www.ricecreek.org.