Bald Eagle Lake is getting cleaner. Thanks to a Clean Water Fund Grant, that trend will continue.
Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) is using a $392,000 grant to design and install a pump-operated, iron-enhanced sand filter near Four Seasons Park in White Bear Township. The filter treats formerly untreated stormwater before it reaches the lake.
The system diverts runoff from Ramsey County Ditch 11 (RCD11), removes phosphorus, sediment and other pollutants, and discharges the cleaner water back into the ditch.
The township provided land for the regional water quality project and the watershed district the money to construct, operate and maintain it. Total cost will be about $500,000. The district board budgeted for the project so residents will not see a property tax increase. What they will see is an improvement in water clarity.
RCWD Project Manager Kyle Axtell explained that RCD11 was originally constructed to provide agricultural drainage, as the large wetland tucked between Highways 61 and 96 used to be farmed. This is no longer the case, but RCD11 still serves as the outlet for stormwater flows from this area, and for White Bear Lake now that its surface elevation has reached the outlet.
“People may not be aware that a large area of the Hwy. 61 commercial corridor in downtown White Bear Lake also flows north through MnDOT’s storm sewer and dumps into RCD11,” Axtell said. When White Bear Lake is flowing through its outlet, as it did for much of 2019, that water also flows into Bald Eagle Lake via RCD11.
“The discharge from White Bear is barely a trickle now,” he added.
The improvement project has been a long time coming to the Ditch 11 watershed, noted the project manager. “Much of this area was developed and redeveloped before modern stormwater treatment requirement rules were put into place. That water went completely untreated.”
The project is expected to reduce downstream phosphorus loading into Bald Eagle by 43 pounds annually.
“There’s been a lot of progress in the quality of Bald Eagle Lake the last few years,” Axtell noted. “It’s really come a long way in a short time.”