VLAWMO, the City of Vadnais Heights, SEH engineering, the MPCA, and the University of Minnesota worked together to improve Lambert Creek. The project includes a sheet pile replacement for water storage in Lambert Pond, a meander along a portion of Lambert Creek south of Lambert Pond, and a biochar filter at Whitaker Pond.
Size of sheet pile replacement: 400 ft
Length of meander: 2,020 ft
The project was funded through both grant and loan funding. Grant funds were through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 funds administered by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) with a match from VLAWMO. Loan funding was provided through a 0% interest loan from the Clean Water Partnership loan program, funded through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).
The grant portion funded the meander and bacteria removal. The loan portion paid for a needed steel replacement of an existing vinyl sheet pile weir that was past its expected lifespan. Grant and loan contracts were approved at the end of 2019.
A history of ditching and draining along Lambert Creek has altered the natural hydrology of the area, causing stronger stormwater surges, increased sedimentation, and increased erosion due to the increased water volume.
Throughout the United States, a trend of channeling and ditching natural waterways has had an unfortunate consequence on water resources and built infrastructure. While straight channels are effective at transporting water quickly, they sacrifice the storage space and natural sediment dispersal that floodplains offer.
Construction took place in winter 2020/2021, and was planned according to FEMA floodplain guidelines. Following construction, native plants were re-vegetated along the meander. While construction plans were being developed, University of Minnesota researchers conducted lab tests and built a design to add an innovative element: biochar. Biochar is a charcoal product that removes bacteria and nutrients. Lab tests determined the right type of biochar for the project and amount needed for bacteria removal.
The project enhanced water storage at Lambert Pond and improved floodplain access in the segment of Lambert Creek just south of Lambert Pond. The effort also removes excess bacteria, improves vegetation and wildlife habitat, and slows down water, which serves to reduce erosion. VLAWMO also learned from similar projects in neighboring watersheds. Reference these at the Rice Creek and Minnehaha Creek websites.
Flyover Video - 2021: Click here
Public Info Session - May, 2020: Click here
Lambert Lake Pond and Meander Fact Sheet: Click here
Introduction Video: Click here
Floodplain Friday: A video series looking at the function and management of floodplains.
Completed Construction Footage: Click here
What is the native vegetation connected to the project, and how will this be maintained?
Native species were selected to include flowers that bloom throughout the growing season to provide pollinator habitat. These species include an emphasis on species that are favored by endangered Rusty patched bumble bees. Early bloomers include willows. Late bloomers include Spotted joe pye weed. Rusty patched bumble bees are actually generalists in their habitat, so they like a lot of flowering species. Adding species that Rusty patched bumble bees like means that we will be able to serve a range of pollinators with this plan. Some species were also selected to stabilize curves. These are shrubby species that have resilient root systems and will help hold the banks in place. Shrubs include Red-osier dogwood and Buttonbush.
Maintenance will include regular site visits and supplemental planning as needed. Future goals may include expanding upon planting areas to further improve habitat quality of the wetland and its ability to filter nutrients and hold water.
What is the impact of the meander on sediment build-up?
In contrast to a conventional ditch, the meander allows for sediment to be dispersed along the stream banks into the floodplain during high water levels. This reduces the sediment that builds up within the ditch, and mimics natural stream function.
How big of a storm would this project handle?
The meander is designed for a 2-year storm event, based on DNR design criteria. This event has a 50% probability in any given year. The floodplain around the project is designated as a 100-year floodplain.
Will the project slow water flow upstream or increase bounce upstream?
Water upstream is expected to act as it currently does. Within the project area, the water will be slowed down slightly, due to the channel length getting longer and the slope of the channel being flatter. This is established and verified in the project plans. Oversight to ensure that design elements provide “no rise,” is provided by VLAWMO through its administration of the Wetland Conservation Act, the City of Vadnais Heights (MS4), DNR Public through its Waters Work Permit, the United States Army Corps of Engineers
Waters of the United States with its Nationwide Permit, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program. All requirements by these entities influenced design of the meander. The project follows all regulatory requirements.
Will the meander move water downstream slower than the current straight ditch?
The meander is designed to connect the flowing stream to its floodplain. That means that the banks will overflow more frequently into the floodplain, so that the floodplain can function as it should. The entire floodplain area will more effectively filter and treat water meaning that water will move more slowly through the area overall. This allows treatment/filtration to occur, interaction with the floodplain, and sediment to settle. It keeps the area working more effectively like a natural system should.
Why don’t projects start higher upstream before addressing Lambert Pond?
The Lambert Pond project has been prioritized due to the expiring sheet pile that is currently in place. This created an urgency for replacement because of the need for replacement that would otherwise cause an immediate flooding risk. VLAWMO is continuing to work with its partners for future projects including creek maintenance, bank restoration, and larger infrastructure projects.
Do you have a question that you think should be included? Contact us at (651) 204-6074 to let us know.
VLAWMO and SEH are working with MN DNR on permitting for the project. MN DNR requests habitat-specific improvements for known species found in the watershed and especially for rare species. Rusty-patched bumble bees are endangered and have been documented in our area. To improve habitat for this species and other pollinators, we are looking at forbs (flowering plants) that we can add to the vegetation restoration phase of the meander to provide high-quality habitat. VLAWMO staff put together a list of species native to our area and shoreline/wetland areas that are also Rusty-patched bumble bee favorites. The list of favorites is available online from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A few species we'll be featuring in the planting design include: Swamp milkweed, Joe pye weed, Fringed gentian, Jewel weed, Bog goldenrod, Buttonbush, and Wild black currant. Our list includes species that bloom throughout the growing season to provide consistent food resources for pollinators. We are also planning for species that are deer resistant so they will be likely to survive well in the Lambert Lake wetland. Shrubs including willows and dogwoods will also be used to help stabilize the meander.
The photo below shows a few of the native, wetland species that are especially valuable for Rusty-patched bumble bees and other pollinators. Those featured are: Buttonbush (white flowers), Fringed gentian (purple flowers), and Joe pye weed (pink flowers). Photos from Prairie Moon Nursery, a local nursery that VLAWMO often works with as a source of native seeds and plants.
VLAWMO continues to work closely with SEH and MN DNR preparing the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). Our focus now is identifying the extent of mitigation that will be needed to protect Blanding’s turtles that may be in the area. Blanding’s turtles have not been reported at the project site. They have been reported in nearby wetlands. Guidance from MN DNR will provide the needed information to complete construction plans and determine optimal timing.
The COVID-19 situation makes many aspects of projects difficult. One of those areas is doing site visits and another is holding stakeholder meetings. MN DNR is unable to do site visits at this time, so we’re adapting by having VLAWMO staff photograph the ditch system and meet with MN DNR staff on Zoom to discuss current and future habitat conditions. A few photographs of the ditch-to-become-stream are included in this update.
Stakeholder meetings are another challenge. VLAWMO would prefer to hold in-person meetings and have an opportunity to talk with residents. We are unable to do that at this time, so we are holding an online forum on May 20, 6:00-7:00 pm - click here for more details and how to participate. VLAWMO, SEH, and the City of Vadnais Heights will provide information during this forum and respond to questions. We hope you will be able to attend. If you can’t make it during the forum, send questions and comments to email@example.com or by hardcopy mail (address below) by May 28th. We will be happy to respond.
VLAWMO maililng address:
800 East Co Rd E
Vadnais Heights, MN 55127
The Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) has been submitted and published in the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) Monitor. It was published on May 18, 2020. The comment period runs from May 19, 2020-June 17, 2020. Feel welcome to contact us and have your comments included.
Our Lambert Pond and Creek Info Session will be held on May 20, 6:00-7:00 pm. VLAWMO, SEH, and theCity of Vadnais Heights will provide information during this forum and respond to questions. We hope you will be able to attend. If you can’t make it during the forum, send us your questions. We will be
happy to respond.
VLAWMO Education and Outreach has created a Floodplain Friday video series to foster dialogue and understanding on the role of floodplains in a watershed system. The series focuses on Lambert Creek and the new meander that will reconnect the stream to its floodplain, creating a healthier and more robust system. Check out the video series, and share it widely!
As we conduct site visits and continue with planning for the project, we enjoy paying attention to the native species that we see there. We’ve started a bird list to document species at the site pre and post project. We hope to see more bird species using the site as habitat conditions improve. Check out our bird list and see if you’ve noticed these species in wetlands around you.
SEH has completed work on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit and is continuing to work on the MN DNR permit. Specs are in prep to allow VLAWMO to go out for bid on the project as planned in August.
The University of Minnesota researchers are wrapping up experiments for biochar treatment cell development and continuing preparations for summer pilot testing of prototype treatment cells.
We are continuing to release Floodplain Friday videos. We invite you to check them out and share with others.
Native vegetation has continued to recover at the site of previous construction and is especially showy right now. Forbs are abundant. See the photo included in this month’s update. Featured are Black-eyed susan (top left), False sunflower (also known as Smooth oxeye) and Bergamot (top right), Blue vervain (bottom left), and Marsh skullcap (bottom right). These flowers provide nectar and pollen for a wide range of pollinators, including the native bumble bee harvesting Goldenrod pollen shown here.
The MN DNR permit is in and completed. Specs have also been completed and will be presented to the VLAWMO Board on the August 26th Board meeting to allow staff and SEH to go out for bid on the project.
Specs and plans were authorized by the VLAWMO Board during the regular meeting, August 26, 2020. The project opened for bid on September 9, 2020. The project is being promoted on the VLAWMO, SEH, and City of Vadnais Heights websites. The ad is published in the League of Minnesota Cities Marketplace and Press Publications newspapers for the City of Vadnais Heights and White Bear Lake.
Sealed Bids will be received by the VLAWMO until 2:00 p.m. (local time), Thursday, October 1, 2020, via QuestCDN. The bid opening will be conducted via GoToMeeting, at which time they will be publicly opened and read aloud, GoTo Meeting information will be sent out to bidders closer to the Bid Opening time listed above.
Major components of the Work include:
A mandatory pre-Bid meeting was held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020, at the project site. The City of Vadnais Heights’ Public Works Department prepared the site by mowing and trimming woody vegetation to allow large vehicles to access the site and to provide ample parking. Representatives of VLAWMO and the engineering team were present to discuss the Project. Bidders were required to attend and participate. The pre-Bid meeting was well attended by prospective contractors.
The University of Minnesota research team continues to work on biochar testing and design. A prototype is running at the site, and removals are being measured at the start of storm events when the first flush of bacteria is highest. Early results on the biochar development process will be presented at the upcoming Water Resources Conference (Oct. 21 & 22, 2020).
Sealed Bids were received by the VLAWMO until 2:00 p.m. (local time), Thursday, October 1, 2020, via QuestCDN. The bid opening was conducted via GoToMeeting, at which time bids were publicly opened and read aloud.
A lowest responsible bidder has been identified by the engineering team at SEH. A formal recommendation will be presented to the VLAWMO Board at the regular Board meeting on October 28, 2020. A contract will be set up upon authorization of the Board. Construction is weather dependent and scheduled for this coming winter.
The University of Minnesota research team continues to work on biochar testing and design. Early results on the biochar development process will be presented at the upcoming Water Resources Conference (Oct. 21 & 22, 2020).
The VLAWMO Board approved the recommended bid from Sunram Construction, Inc., at the regular Board meeting on October 28, 2020. A conformed contract was signed and returned to the SEH engineering team by VLAWMO. Erosion control measures will be initiated by the contractor in the coming weeks, and selected homeowners near the construction area will be contacted for a photographic structural survey (basement/foundations) prior to sheetpile replacement. Construction is weather dependent and scheduled for this coming winter, upon approval by the engineers.
The University of Minnesota research team continues to work on biochar testing and design. Early results on the biochar development process were presented at the Water Resources Conference (Oct. 21 & 22, 2020). The team hoped to have a few fall storm events to measure treatment efficiency in the pilot biochar treatment cells that were located onsite. The early October freeze caused an early end to field-based biochar testing. The biochar boxes were loaded onto a truck and transported to the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) where lab testing continues at this time.
A forklift was required to load the pilot biochar treatment cells onto a truck en route to NRRI in Duluth for further testing.
Members of the UMN biochar team and VLAWMO met onsite to discuss design ideas.
The project is in final stages of preparation for construction in the coming weeks. Sunram Construction, Inc., contacted selected homeowners near the construction area for photographic structural surveys (basement/foundations) prior to sheetpile replacement. Sheetpile replacement may start as soon as the
week of Dec. 21, 2020. Meander construction preparation is also underway. The peat is not yet sufficiently frozen for earthwork to begin in that area.
Project construction has begun. Erosion control measures are in place, and prep for the site has been completed. Mats were needed to support the heavy equipment working along the sheetpile wall. Mats were placed earlier this week, and sheetpile replacement has begun. The meander is making progress too. Some trees in the immediate path of the meander were removed and incorporated as habitat elements to support wildlife. The meander path has been staked to guide the heavy equipment as the crew begins their work. Meander construction is starting in the next few days as of January 28th.
Major elements of project construction are now complete. The meander is online and functioning, and sheetpile replacement was completed on February 26. Drone footage of completed construction will be available soon. A final flight will be done after vegetation stabilization is added this spring. Smaller crews and equipment will still be accessing the site as final erosion-control measures are completed and vegetation (shrubs and seeding) are incorporated. An in-ground biochar filter will also be added as part of this project over the coming months.
A variety of native shrubs are installed on the banks of the new meander: Native willows, Dogwood, and Meadowsweet. See photos in the gallery below.
Site monitoring for water levels and plant establishment took place throughout the months of June and July. Pond and meander perform sufficiently during all rain events in spring and early summer. Due to below average rainfall in late June and July, the Lambert Lake Pond and Meander saw an increase in aquatic vegetation such as duckweed. This growth is common and expected in shallow lakes and wetlands of this region, and is not indicative of a water quality impairment or poor functioning of the pond or meander. Aerial drone footage captured for an August, 2021 release. Project is complete, and ongoing monitoring will take place into the future!