40th anniversary boardwalk logo.jpg

2023 is VLAWMO's 40th anniversary! 

We're looking back at some of the key projects and efforts in VLAWMO's history. But the story of VLAWMO is also the story of a much larger community of neighbors, cities, townships, businesses, and countless partnerships focused on local water resources. The celebration will continue throughout the summer with prizes, interviews, and additional photo galleries. Check back on this page each month to join us in the watershed reflection.

Anniversary Cupcakes

Watershed Moments: A Summarized Timeline of VLAWMO

1983-1989: "A Wee Little Watershed"
  • VLAWMO’s earliest meeting on record is documented as November 2nd, 1983. VLAWMO was created in part as a response to the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act of 1982.
  • Early years were devoted to developing a water plan, filling commissioner seats, defining roles, defining the watershed boundary, establishing municipal partner relationships, creating by-laws, and attaining a bank account.
  • Responsibility for Ramey County Ditches 13 and 14 were transferred to VLAWMO. VLAWMO started with a focus on surveying the ditches manually, mapping it out and identifying the drainage routes.
  • At this time, the Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) was represented as a commissioner along with City representatives.
  • The world of municipal water treatment, including SPRWS, didn’t yet have the technology to remove the odors that were caused by algae blooms. This led to an incentive to reduce phosphorus inputs into East Vadnais Lake to reduce the odors on the front end.
  • VLAWMO started reviewing development proposals to evaluate things like runoff and retention basin plans and the hydrological studies that accompany development proposals and street renovations.
  • Towards the end of the decade, VLAWMO joined the EPA’s efforts to promote a “No Net Loss” of wetlands. This provided a foundation for today’s State and Federal wetland protections.
1990-1999: "The Little Watershed That Could"
  • VLAWMO planned and installed wetland control structures on Rice and Grass Lakes along Lambert Creek/Ditch 14. These allowed the wetlands in these areas to store more water, balancing the greater ditch system and improving water quality for Vadnais Lake downstream. This effort won the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) Appreciation Award for Successful Project in 1993. A NALMS conference bus tour visited the project sites in 1996. The effort utilized grants from Ducks Unlimited and the Minnesota Clean Water Partnership.
  • In the mid to late 90’s discussions and studies were taking place for two more control structures at Lambert Lake and Whitaker Pond.
  • VLAWMO switched from the State ditch law 103E to 103B with guidance from the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources.
  • Wetland banking sites were created in North Oaks near Wilkinson Lake and at Tamarack Nature Center. If development in the watershed modified a wetland, the developer would purchase banking credits that would preserve the wetlands in these other locations.
  • Continued review of development proposals, often requiring stormwater runoff to be ponded before discharging it into wetlands.
  • City of Gem Lake joins VLAWMO in 1995.
  • The VLAMWO office moved from the White Bear Lake fire station to the White Bear Lake City Hall in 1995.
  • The Whitaker Pond control structure was installed near the start of Lambert Creek in 1996.
  • In the second half of the decade, VLAWMO started a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) and created educational videos about wetlands, which appeared on the local cable channel. In this time VLAWMO created its first logo and was planning its first website.
  • By the end of the decade VLAWMO had completed and started acting on its second water management plan and its first wetland management plan. The water monitoring program was up and running with the help of staff and citizen lake monitors, consisting of 8 monitoring sites ranging from lakes to Lambert Creek. 
2000-2009: "Expected and Unexpected Journeys"
  • Sheet pile first installed along Lambert Creek at the Lambert Lake wetland complex, enhancing water storage and reducing downstream flooding.
  • VLAWMO utilizes its first wetland management plan to keep up with emerging State wetland policies, reviewing development proposals regarding wetland modification, and helping to prevent unlawful wetland filling.
  • VLAWMO received a Met Council grant to produce a video on wetlands and regulations, hold erosion control workshops and do chloride testing in street runoff.  
  • Wetlands, floodplains, ditches, and lakes get plugged into GIS software to help plan projects and conduct studies.
  • VLAWMO’s water monitoring program is 10 years old in 2006 yet continues to grow for the rest of the decade to cover more waterbodies and additional sites on Lambert Creek.
  • Several restoration projects occur along Lambert Creek.
  • Gem Lake Heritage Hall raingarden installed in 2006. Raingarden workshops launch in 2007.
  • VLAWMO switches from a direct mailing billing system to a Stormwater Utility Fee.
  • VLAWMO creates a new two-board system with a Board of Directors and a Technical Commission.
2010-2019: "I Wanna Know, Have You Ever Seen the Raingarden?"
  • Raingardens take off at nine parks and schools across the watershed. VLAWMO supports their funding through its cost-share grant program and helps train respective property managers on maintenance and upkeep. Raingarden workshops and the cost-share grant program reach over 50 raingarden installations in the decade.
  • Central Middle School receives a VLAWMO grant for a large bioswale and underground retention basin in the school parking lot, headwaters of Lambert Creek. A first in the watershed.
  • A bacteria monitoring study took place on Lambert Creek during both wet and dry weather. Lambert Creek is discovered to reach impaired E. coli levels during storm events, study indicates canine and avian sources.
  • Various Lambert Creek/Ditch 14 clean-up and maintenance efforts take place in partnership with member communities. Management strategies and procedures are built based on the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between VLAWMO and its member communities.
  • Shoreline restorations take place at Birch Lake, Charley Lake channel, Deep Lake channel, Sucker Lake channel, and Lambert Creek. A Lambert Creek restoration at Kohler Road in Vadnais Heights includes a drop structure to reduce incoming stormwater velocity and it’s impact on the creek, helping to reduce wear-and-tear on creek banks at a problem location.
  • Bullhead harvest takes place on impaired Goose Lake to reduce excess nutrient movement from the lakebed to the water column. Studies and committees launch to work towards reducing Goose Lake’s high phosphorus levels.
  • Whitaker Pond renovated and a forebay added in 2010. The forebay is a dugout space upstream from the main pond for sediment to settle out before water continues downstream. It also provides a key access point for ditch dredging, which occurred every few years and continues today in partnership with Ramsey County.
  • Goose Lake improvement efforts continue with City planning and the launch of the “Adopt-a-Drain” program.
  • The Education and Outreach plan is launched in 2015.  Volunteer program expands to Minnesota Water Stewards training in partnership with Freshwater Society in 2018.
  • VLAWMO works with the Rice Lake Neighborhood Association as it pioneers a biocontrol program to reduce invasive purple loosestrife in Rice Lake, one of Lambert Creek’s large wetland complexes.
  • Gem Lake de-listed from State impaired list in 2019. One of VLAWMO’s biggest success stories!
2020-2023: Dodge, Duck, Dip, and Dive into a New Era
  • VLAWMO’s team of Minnesota Water Stewards create the Junior Watershed Explorer activity book to provide a social distancing, outdoor activity as families cope with the pandemic.
  • New Lambert Creek/Ditch 14 dredging locations are identified and dredged in Vadnais Heights.
  • The first sand-iron stormwater filter is installed in the watershed in 2020 at Birch Lake.
  • A spent lime study launches at Ash Street in Lino Lakes and Oak Knoll Pond/Wood Lake in White Bear Lake to investigate new ways to reduce nutrient pollution in ponds and potentially larger waterbodies.
  • The Lambert Lake sheet pile from 2005 is upgraded with stainless steel for long-term durability.
  • A portion of Lambert Creek is transformed from a straight ditch to a curved meander near Lambert Lake. The meander improves the creek’s access to the floodplain and allows sediment a place to settle out during high water levels.
  • Invasive common carp removal launches in Pleasant and Deep Lakes, serving as a tool to help reduce excess phosphorus levels in Pleasant Lake.
  • East Goose Lake Community-Engagement report completed.
  • A new groundwater campaign launches with a website and a smart irrigation pilot program with Vadnais Heights and White Bear Township.
  • Each Lake in VLAWMO receives a new or updated Sustainable Lake Management Plan (SLMR) to serve as a basis for project planning, budgeting, and lake improvement efforts.

Lambert Creek Efforts: Restoring Storage Capacity and Improving Water Quality

VLAWMO completed the Lambert Creek/Vadnais Lake Water Quality Improvement Project study in 1992. Sponsored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the project was an effort to create multiple weirs and raise the water levels in several large wetland complexes along Lambert Creek. 

With improved holding capacity in each wetland, Lambert Creek saw a better balance between upstream and downstream areas. High water levels were provided a space to flood, which was a feature largely lost in the creation of Lambert Creek/Ditch 14 in the 1930's. While creating ditches was an efficient way to send water elsewhere, the draw back was a heavy burden of sediment, large water volumes, higher water velocities, and increased pollution downstream. In addition to the improved storage capacity and creek balance, the wetland weirs allowed Lambert Creek to move slower. While the system still had troubled spots and more work was to be done, the project allowed sediments, debris, and other potential pollutants to settle out instead of travel downstream. In the 1990's and still today, VLAWMO strives to protect and improve Lambert Creek and it's connection to East Vadnais Lake, which is the reservoir for the Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS). 

The initial project included weirs at Rice and Grass Lakes, although Lambert Lake was also part of the initial study. Lambert Lake and Whitaker Pond efforts were completed in 2005 and 2020, respectively. 

The project won an Appreciation Award for Successful Project from the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) in 1993. The NALMS conference included a tour of the weirs along Lambert Creek that year. 

View these and other projects like it with more location detail on the "Control Structures" tab of the VLAWMO Project Map.

With Growth Comes Stormwater

Whitaker Pond was a former ditch that was undersized for the volume of runoff that was coming in from Highway 96 and the upstream neighborhood. As community growth increased development in the area, storage capacity needed to keep up with the increase in impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff. The project was a collaboration between VLAWMO, the City of White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, and Ramsey County in 1996-1997.

While one of the largest stormwater ponds in the area, Whitaker Pond wasn't alone. Stormwater ponds were commonly built in the 1980s-90s to help protect downstream waterbodies and comply with emerging State stormwater and wetland regulations. The practice continues as a tool for water quality and water storage today, but unlike the 1990's, is one of many tools in the stormwater toolbox. While stormwater ponds can have reputations for being unsightly or emitting odors, this is also a testament to the ponds fulfilling their purpose of protecting downstream waterbodies. In the case of Whitaker Pond, the pond serves to support the health and cleanliness of East Vadnais Lake. 

A forebay was added to Whitaker Pond in 2010 to provide a space for sediment to settle out and be more conveniently dredged. Read more about the history of Whitaker Pond here and check out the photo documentation below. 

It Takes a Village

Local water touches many corners of our community, and VLAWMO couldn't do what it does without a community effort. Here are some of the familiar faces, tours, and banquets from over the years.