City, local watershed districts win awards
Since 2006, the City of Stillwater, Brown’s Creek Watershed District (BCWD) and Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization (MSCWMO) have collaborated with other local governments on an educational program to protect and improve 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 BCWD encompasses all of Hugo, May Township, Grant, Stillwater Township and Stillwater that drains to Brown’s Creek. The MSCWMO is comprised of the nine communities bordering the St. Croix River between Stillwater and St. Mary’s Point. Although the two organizations operate through different structures, they share a similar goal of protecting and improving surface water resources within their jurisdictions, as well as the St. Croix River.
When the collaborative, dubbed the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, began in 2006, there were seven partner entities: BCWD, MSCWMO, Stillwater, Washington County, Washington Conservation District and the Valley Branch and South Washington Watershed districts. Today, the partnership has includes 18 local government entities in the east metro area.
The partners work to raise awareness and understanding about water resource issues and promote practices such as native plantings, rain gardens and low-impact lawn care that help to reduce polluted runoff, especially near priority water bodies. In partnership with the WCD, BCWD and MSCWMO also offer free site visits, project designs and cost-share grants to area residents to make it easier for people to complete 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. One example of this is a series of three St. Croix River workshops that were each attended by more than 100 representatives from cities, counties and watersheds along the Lower St. Croix River in Minnesota and Wisconsin. At the workshops, community leaders learned about issues impacting the river, such as excess nutrients and invasive species, and practices they could implement at a municipal level to address these problems.
The winner of the Program of the Year award was announced at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts, Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 in Alexandria.
In 2013, Stillwater-area education activities include workshops on landscaping for clean water and managing buckthorn. In addition, BCWD received a grant to work with the city of Stillwater and homeowners in the Neal Avenue neighborhood near Brown’s Creek Park to install rain gardens. The MSCWMO organized neighborhood parties and tours of rain gardens installed near Lily Lake and Lake McKusick in 2011 and 2012.
To learn more about the Brown’s Creek and Middle St. Croix Watersheds, including how to apply for grants and technical assistance for clean-water landscaping, visit www.bcwd.org or www.mscwmo.org. Learn more about the educational partnership at www.mnwcd.org/cleanwater.