Tax dollars work for water: Legacy Amendment funds will help protect St. Croix River

Recent round of grants will support seven projects in the watershed, reducing runoff and keeping water healthy.




4 minute read

Via the Board of Water and Soil Resources:

The mouth of the Sunrise River where it joins the St. Croix at Wild River State Park. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) recently announced $12.3 million in grants to improve water quality around the state. The funding is provided by the Clean Water Fund, which gets one-third of the proceeds of a statewide sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

A significant portion of the grants will support projects in the region that drains into the St. Croix River. Some of the projects will benefit lakes and tributaries, while others will directly affect the river.

“Throughout Minnesota, local government staff and private landowners are collaborating with the state to make meaningful progress toward improving water quality,” said John Jaschke, executive director of BWSR. “These grants are a key component in ongoing efforts to keep our water clean and our lakes, rivers and streams healthy.”

The grants for the St. Croix basin total nearly $1.5 million dollars spread across seven projects spread from Pine County in the north to Washington in the south. The work will be done by local watershed districts and local partners.

Little Comfort Lake Phosphorus Reduction Implementation

Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District

The proposed project addresses phosphorus reductions to Little Comfort Lake, a 36-acre impaired lake that is hydrologically connected to Comfort Lake. While the phosphorus improvements of this project are directly for Little Comfort Lake, it also reduces phosphorus to Comfort Lake. The proposed projects include implementation of a variable height weir to impound water in a large wetland complex,a series of beaver dam analogs along the School Lake outlet channel to Little Comfort Lake,and an in-lake alum treatment. These projects are expected to remove 80 pounds/year of phosphorus loads from the east wetland impoundment, 60pounds/yr of phosphorus from the School Lake outlet channel improvements, and 56 pounds/yr of phosphorus from the in-lake alum treatment.This is a total load reduction of 206 pounds/yr which will achieve the remaining reductions needed for Comfort Lake to be removed from the impaired waters list.

2021 Priority Implementation Targeting Lawrence Creek, Dry Creek,and Direct Drainage to the St. Croix River

Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District

The St. Croix River escarpment has been a focal point for the Chisago Soil and WaterConservation District over the past eight years in a multi-phase targeted plan to reduce phosphorus and sediment loading to the St.Croix River and Lake St. Croix. Through this application, the focal area will be subwatersheds in the rural area, which are upstream of the escarpment,or drain directly to the St. Croix River. Lawrence Creek and an unnamed direct drainage stream are the County’s only listed trout streams and are Regionally Significant Streams for pollution reduction. A minimum of 20 projects will reduce the phosphorus loading by at least 140 pounds/year and sediment loading by at least 140 tons/year.

Bone Lake Northeast Wetland Restoration

Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District

The Bone and Moody Lake drainage areas are the headwaters of the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District northern flow network,and as such, their water quality sets the stage for downstream waters, many of which are impaired. This project proposes to remove accumulated phosphorus-rich sediment from the northern portion of a wetland directly adjacent to Bone Lake that had a history of receiving direct livestock manure runoff from the dairy farm barnyard located on the same wetland. This project is estimated to reduce watershed phosphorus loads to Bone Lake by 15 pounds/yr. Modest phosphorus reductions to Bone Lake are needed to maintain its recent achievement of state water quality standards and remove Bone Lake from the impaired waters list, making this a statewide priority lake.

2021 Goose Creek Watershed TMDL Implementation

Chisago SWCD

East Rush Lake, West Rush Lake,and Goose Lake are impaired for excess nutrients and have some of the lowest water quality in Chisago County, yet they are also some of the most heavily used for recreation. Projects have been prioritized by their potential reduction in total phosphorus loading per year and will be targeted in that order to achieve the greatest reduction per project. The goal of this grant is to provide technical and financial assistance in the Goose Creek watershed for the targeted implementation of at least20 practices to reduce watershed runoff phosphorus loading to Goose, East Rush, and West Rush Lakes and the St. Croix River by a minimum of 140 pounds/year.

Lake St. Croix Small Communities Urban Phosphorus Reductions Phase II

Middle St.Croix River WMO

This project will address stormwater discharge from a 1,852 acre pipeshed that is directly discharging to Lake St.Croix. This will be done through the installation of targeted stormwater treatment best management practices prioritized in the Lake St. Croix Direct Discharge Stormwater Retrofit Analysis. The goal of this project is to reduce urban pollutant loading to LakeSt.Croix by at least seven pounds of phosphorous, one ton of sediment and one acre-foot of stormwater per year through the installation of up to 15 Low Impact Development stormwater best management practices.

2021 Sunrise River Phase II Lower St. Croix CWMP Implementation

Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District

The Sunrise River subwatershed has been identified as the top source of phosphorus loading to Lake St. Croix. Due to the large size of the Sunrise River subwatershed, the Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District has implemented a phased approach to prioritize and target the next smaller size subwatersheds within the larger Sunrise River subwatershed. This application targets the North Branch of the Sunrise River subwatershed which receives runoff from both rural and urban areas. A Stormwater Retrofit Assessment is underway to identify the best locations for stormwater projects, including rain gardens, vegetated swales, pervious pavement, infiltration basins,and iron enhanced sand filters. Priority will be given to projects closest to the river and its tributaries. At least 10 conservation projects will be installed, preventing at least 50pounds/year of phosphorus and 50 tons/year sediment from entering the river.

Knife River Clean Up

Kanabec Soil and Water Conservation District

Targeted projects include pasture management practices and streambank erosion protection practices including livestock fencing exclusions with the option of providing alternative watering facilities and/or enhancing buffer strips in pasture stream corridors. These projects are well supported by the members of the Knife Lake Sportsman’s Club and the Knife Lake Improvement District and are estimated to reduce sediment and phosphorus by eight tons per year and 40 pounds per year, respectively.


This short video from BWSR highlights work done in the St. Croix watershed in recent years. It features North and South Center Lakes, where the Chisago Soil & Water Conservation District has worked with landowners to invest in improving water quality, and has gotten results.


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Tax dollars work for water: Legacy Amendment funds will help protect St. Croix River