This is part of a series of columns by local water experts. These columns on our water are a collaboration between the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region and other environmental agencies and groups working in Anoka County. To learn more about the League of Women Voters, check out lwvumrr.org.

The city of Fridley is defined by its water resources including the Mississippi River, Rice Creek and Moore Lake. While these water bodies may be best known for providing opportunities for recreation and enjoying nature, they also serve a more utilitarian purpose in the management of the city’s stormwater runoff.

Almost all of the rain that falls on impervious surfaces in Fridley is routed to one of these water bodies via our storm sewer system which is comprised of almost 5,000 catch basins and more than 100 miles of pipe.

The city’s management of this storm sewer system is regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) through the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. This permit is revised every five years, most recently in November 2020.

As a result, the city is in the process of updating how it approaches stormwater education, stormwater pollution response, and storm sewer system maintenance to comply with new permit requirements.

Additionally, the city is making a concerted effort to integrate water quality protection into our capital projects.

Historically, stormwater was not treated before being discharged to a water body, which resulted in sediment, phosphorus and bacterial pollution. These sources of pollution can cause shifts in aquatic ecology, impair aquatic recreation, and make it more expensive to treat drinking water.

As the negative impact of the untreated stormwater runoff on water quality becomes more apparent, we have been investing more resources in protecting our water bodies. In 2021-2022, we have more water quality projects underway in Fridley.

These improvements include the Craig Park Improvements project to manage flooding (shown in photo) and improve water quality through a new stormwater management system, expansion of the existing Village Green Pond to provide more flood protection and pollutant removal, integration of six curb-cut raingardens into our 2021 street project to protect Rice Creek, and installation of an iron enhanced sand and biochar filter at Moore Lake Park to remove phosphorus and bacteria from Moore Lake.

While each of these projects is different, they all aim to divert untreated stormwater out of the storm sewer system and filter it through soil or filter media to remove pollutants. Through these projects alone, the city has been able to leverage over $600,000 in matching funds from partner organizations including the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Met Council, Coon Creek Watershed District and Rice Creek Watershed District.

Most residents of Anoka County live in a city with a separate storm sewer system. Residents can reduce water quality pollution by keeping debris and contaminants out of this system. This includes raking leaves that fall into the gutter, picking up pet waste, and adopting a drain through adopt-a-drain.org. Residents can learn more about the MS4 permit process at tinyurl.com/frube52w.

Rachel Workin is an environmental planner for the city of Fridley.

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