Watershed Award Recipients: 2020

VLAWMO is pleased to announce the winners of its annual award program: The Watershed Steward Award and the Watershed Partner Award. Each award is an effort to celebrate success stories and partnerships in water resources education, management, and planning. Award nominations were provided anonymously from community members, and were voted on by the VLAWMO Technical Commission (TEC) on November 13, 2020. Formal recognition occurred at the VLAWMO Board of Directors meeting on December 9th, 2020. 

Have you seen watershed leadership in action? Nominations forms are available on our website and accepted year-round. Visit the awards home page for nomination forms and criteria. 

Watershed Steward Award:

This award is open to volunteers, neighborhood or lake associations, businesses, or community groups who have worked to improve water resources and watershed education.

2020 Award Recipient: 

Ceci Shapland, Minnesota Water Steward and VLAWMO Volunteer

Ceci award 2020

Ceci Shapland: Watershed Steward Award


Junior Watershed Explorer Booklet:  In 2020 Ceci developed the idea of making a workbook for children that would educate them about the lakes, wetlands, flora, and animals within the VLAWMO watershed. She developed the majority of the material included in the booklet, securing a VLAWMO Community Blue grant to fund graphics and editing of the booklet. A partnership with Tamarack Nature Center was created to announce and describe the workbook, which is now available online and at the Vadnais City Hall.  The workbook strives to increase watershed awareness for children and adults, and demonstrates the importance of keeping water resources healthy. 

Garden Tour 2019, 2020: Although an "in person" tour wasn’t possible in 2020 due to COVID-19, Ceci helped develop a DIY/socially distant neighborhood garden tour in September, 2020. In 2019, Ceci helped coordinate an in-person neighborhood tour utilizing a van rental. In both years, Ceci worked with VLAWMO staff to gather a list of VLAWMO cost-share recipients that could serve as potential host-sites for the DIY tour. Ceci communicated with the host sites and participants, who in 2020 independently visited the projects during a predetermined schedule. These tours helped foster interest in residential projects that help support local water resources. Raingardens, native plantings, bio-swales, and permeable pavement were a few of the projects showcased, including efforts on her own property to reduce stormwater runoff and prevent erosion.

Other efforts: In 2018, Ceci led an effort to label stormdrains in her neighborhood with educational “no dumping” markers, highlighting the connection between the stormdrains and East Vadnais Lake. A springtime event brought neighbors together to clean and label 70 stormdrains in the neighborhood, and a neighborhood news article was submitted to explain the importance of clean stormdrains and proper use of winter salt and de-icer.

In 2019, Ceci volunteered to help facilitate the first ever VLAWMO native plant swap, an effort to help neighbors exchange native plants during Spring gardening season. This event provided an outlet for residents to find good homes for ambitious plants that may be spreading too much in their yards, try out new native plants, and learn more about the types and benefits they bring to soil and the watershed. 

Hours: From 2018-2020, Ceci has invested over 180 hours of service to the projects explained here.

VLAWMO thanks Ceci for all of the time, creativity, and care that she’s put into her work with the Watershed Action Volunteers (WAV). The watershed and the VLAWMO community is tremendously fortunate to have her talents and leadership on the team!

Watershed Partner Award:

This award is open to municipalities, counties, schools, or state entities working in the VLAWMO watershed. Projects in focus include infrastructure that strives to improve the impact of stormwater runoff, or to protect and/or improve local waterbodies such as lakes, creeks, and wetlands. Policies and practices in winter and turf maintenance, municipal water use, and MS4 programming (link), are also considered for this award.

2020 Award Recipient: 

Connie Taillon, P.E., Environmental Specialist, City of White Bear Lake

Connie award 2020.JPG

Connie Taillon: Watershed Partner Award


Connie met with VLAWMO staff in the fall of 2016 to identify potential retrofit opportunities for stormwater treatment around Birch Lake. One area identified was the 4th Street and Otter Lake Road storm sewer outfall. In early 2017, the City Council expressed full support of VLAMWO’s stormwater feasibility study options, with a resolution to financially contribute towards the cost of the feasibility study. After the sand iron filter was identified as a feasible project in the fall of 2017, City Council passed a resolution in support of VLAWMO applying for a BWSR Clean Water Fund grant and made a commitment to contribute towards the grant match.

The City of White Bear Lake provided in-kind services whenever possible, completing an existing survey of the site prior to project design and acquiring ownership of donated vacant property for the construction of a maintenance access road to the filter. The project was installed and completed in June, 2020. 

The City has also signed an operation and agreements with VLAWMO in 2020 to upkeep the effectiveness of the filter. Part of this agreement entails staff cleaning out the underground structures of debris using a VAC truck.

Watershed impact: The Sand-iron filter reduces annual phosphorus loading into Birch Lake by 8.1 lbs/yr. For context, 1 lb of phosphorus is estimated to produce 500 lbs of algae. In a 1-inch rain event, it can filter 4.36 acre/ft of stormwater runoff, which is equivalent to 1,419,083 gallons.

Hours: City staff were involved in the project annually from 2016-2020. 30 hours estimated for each year in accumulated staff person hours. 120 hours estimated total. The project completed in 2020, and still has a 15 hr/yr estimated participation investment from City staff for future years.

Summary from award nomination: “The success of this project is a testament to a commitment to collaborate with partners in all aspects of project design, construction, and maintenance, and showcases how strong partnerships can work together for a common goal.”

The VLAWMO staff, TEC, and Board are extremely thankful for the dedication and focus displayed by Connie and the City of White Bear Lake as the 4th and Otter sand-iron filter unfolded.

Watershed Partner Award Honorable Mention:

Molly Churchich, Environmental Services Supervisor, Ramsey County Public Works

Molly Churchich: Honorable Mention

Accomplishments: Molly represented Ramsey County during a partnership with VLAWMO for the installation of the Birch Lake 4th Street and Otter Lake Road iron-enhanced sand filter, located in the City of White Bear Lake. Ramsey County signed onto the project out of interest in the technical, financial, and project maintenance components of the project. Ramsey County organized the majority of the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Agreement between the project partners, and was the driving force behind its execution. The O&M is the key agreement that guides the maintenance that supports the project’s functioning for its 25 year lifespan.

Molly’s work supported and integrated with the goals of the VLAWMO 2017-2026 Watershed Management Plan. Components of this plan relevant to Molly’s efforts on the 4th and Otter sand-iron filter include Capital Improvement Project (CIP) implementation, regional project collaboration, and partnership for the improvement and protection of VLAWMO waterbodies.

Hours: 80 estimated hours of staff time has been contributed to the project from 2018 to 2020, with the majority of that time dedicated to work on the Operations & Maintenance Agreement.

VLAWMO extends a warm thank you to Molly and the Ramsey County Public Works team, it’s been a pleasure working with you and we look forward to future projects like this one!


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