Maplewood Environmental & Natural Resources Commission
Meeting, May 1, 2007, 4:45 PM, at City Hall
Verdantly Unofficial Notes by JN

Present for the meeting were commission chair Jim Beardsley; commissioners Carol Mason Sherill, Tom Moibi, and Ginny Yngling; and city staff Ginny Gaynor (Naturalist-Open Space), DuWayne Konewko (Environmental Manager), and Ann Hutchinson (Lead Naturalist).

Agenda items/headings are taken directly from the agenda on the city website.

  1. Welcome/Introductions/housekeeping items/meeting dates

The meeting began with a welcome from the chair.

Mr. Konewko had a couple of items to bring up about future meetings. First, June 5th is a regular scheduled meeting for the Environmental Commission, but it will occur at the Community Center, and it's really a special event in lieu of the meeting. There will be two speakers for this discussion of sustainable development and green building. Apparently there will also be pizza before the discussion gets underway.

Second, on May 22nd there will begin the Gladstone urban landscape discussion, as a special meeting for the Environmental commission, with both the Community Design Review Board and the Environmental Commission together to look at Gladstone and its development plans.

Konewko also wanted to make sure that the present meeting included enough time for the discussion of the Silver Lake issue (item 5 on the agenda), and suggested that if necessary the later agenda items could be moved to a later meeting, since the Planning Commission's meeting was scheduled for the same room at 7 PM.

  1. Wrap-up/discussion of Maplewood Celebrates Nature Event that took place on April 28th. - what worked/what didn’t work well – discussion of the planning process – thoughts and overview

Turnout at this weekend event was good, with an informal count around 270 attendees. The response was very positive from participants and organizers.

Sherill had a suggestion about the arrangement of tables under the tent, which may have dissuaded some attendees from coming in and seeing all that was.

  1. Update on Maplewood’s Spring Clean-up that took place on April 28th – similar discussion and review with Maplewood Celebrates Nature Event

This day featured “a steady stream of people using the clean-up services,” reported Konewko. The excellent weather that day probably helped turnout. He doesn't have final statistics on exactly what was collected, but it was clearly a big success.

Flyers about the Nature Center event were handed out to people who went to the clean-up in the morning, and at least some folks who got them did attend the afternoon event. Special thanks were offered to Councilman Rossbach for handing out those flyers, and for playing the part of the arm-wrestling raccoon at the Nature Center.

From the audience Ron Cockriel, who helped at the Nature Center event, offered his perspective, which was also very positive.

Sherill said that some people did pick up packages for the Great Tree Search. Beardsley suggested that a small area of improvement might have been to let people know when the drawings were, so they would gather around for them.

There was also discussion about the presence of Eureka Recycling, who had a big recycling truck at the event and also employees explaining the trash separation and had separate bins for the different trash types. (As an aside, your humble scribe attended the event and was especially impressed by the corn-based transparent plastic cups which were compostable. And he feels awkward writing about himself in the third person, so he is going to stop now.)

  1. Update on Maplewood’s Tree City application – GREAT NEWS

The formal declaration has not yet been received from the Arbor Day Foundation, but it should be sometime in June, since the preliminary feedback has indicated that everything is together. In June Konewko says he would like to bring the Environmental Commission to a city council meeting to formally present the declaration to the City.

Sherill, who has apparently been a prime mover behind seeking this special designation for Maplewood, waxed eloquent about the value of trees as a cornerstone of our city's environment. She outlined the steps that were taken to get the designation: first the tree ordinance, passed by the city last year; then a tree planting program as a city-wide effort. “Be watching in the community for how it grows and how it's implemented.”

Konewko added his thanks to Sherill, Beardsley, and the rest of the commission as well, for their leadership and continued prodding of staff to make this happen. “I speaks to...what this commission is all about.” He described a city staff meeting earlier this afternoon for a tree planting and preservation program, including education, a tree sale, and the like. “We want residents to be able to purchase trees at a reasonable price when they have to remove trees” (for example, due to disease). He hoped that something would be in place by the end of the summer.

One individual necessary for the next agenda item was not yet at the meeting, and was not expected to attend until 5:30, so folks in the audience were invited to share any thoughts in the meantime.

Ron Cockriel mentioned that Bailey Nurseries had donated 50 pin oaks and 50 swamp white oaks to the city, representing the city's 50th anniversary, which were made available to residents at the nature center. Thanks were offered by all.

Patty Gearin From Wipers Recycling had had a table at the nature center event (including free samples available to attendees), and described her products which she had featured at the nature center event. She also announced that her business is moving to Maplewood (where she is already a resident).

Bruce Roman from the Parks Commission, who attended the Saturday event, was invited to share his thoughts on it. He was very pleased with it, and declared that the price was right (it was a free event). “Does this commission rock?” asked Konewko. “Yes!” agreed Roman.

  1. Funding Request from Silver Lake Improvement Association for Treatment of Noxious and Invasive Weeds in Silver Lake

Konewko set the stage for the discussion with some materials. Unfortunately, an e-mail problem seemed to have resulted in the information packet not being transmitted in advance to the members of the commission.

Silver Lake's shores are along Maplewood, North Saint Paul and Oakdale; 30-35% of the lakeshore falls within the city of Maplewood. A little over half the lake is now covered by Eurasian water milfoil. The other invasive species, curly pondweed, covers about 17 acres of the lake. Since they partially overlap, about 60 acres in total is infested by these noxious weeds.

Attending the meeting for this agenda item were Bruce Roman of the parks commission, and a representative of the Silver Lake Improvement Association, Dr. Mike Mathe. The Association had originally requested $13,000 from the city to help with a remediation plan to manage the weeds (out of approximately $40,000 total cost for treatment).

Konewko explained that six bodies of water in Maplewood are classified as impaired (five with phosphorus, one with atmospheric mercury), but Silver Lake is not one of them. Staff was struggling with this issue, considering these other priorities in Maplewood. Their recommendation was $7500 toward a demonstration pilot project. This was brought to the city council on April 23, which rejected the proposal, but asked staff to bring it to the environmental and parks and recreation commissions and then bring it back to the council for reconsideration.

The big question was to find out if the 2,4-D chemical treatment did help in treating the Eurasian water milfoil. It functions by mimicking a plant growth hormone, causing the milfoil grow uncontrollably, resulting ultimately in its demise. The other chemical (endothol) is used to kill clear-leaf pondweed. Endothol is a contact herbicide, which needs to be done early in the season before the native plants have started to grow (before the water temperature reaches 60 degrees).

The city council's reported concerns were budgetary; wanting more “buy-in” from the 35 citizens on the lake; and also more treatment of effluent flowing into the lake (city street run-off, for example). There was also a staff-recommended requirement that all residents attend an educational program on what they can do to reduce their impact on the water body. The other issue of concern is the boat landing, which they'll also return to the council on.

Bruce Roman was invited to present a summary of the discussion at the previous week's Parks & Recreation Commission meeting. After spending most of their meeting discussing this Silver Lake topic, the consensus seemed to be that they recognized the importance of the issue, wanted to work with the cities and residents, and also had a lot discussions about the boat launch. (Should it be controlled? Should somebody be there watching?) The parks commission concluded that there should be a moratorium on the use of the boat launch, though the time frame was ambiguous, to restrict access to the lake to non-motorized vessels only.

Beardsley asked if 2,4-D was the only chemical that could be used for the milfoil treatment. Konewko responded that at the present time it's the only one the DNR would allow to be used under their grant program (which is providing $10,000, or 25%, of the cost of this effort). He outlined the money various parties are contributing to the treatment, including residents on the lake ($14,800), the other cities on the lake, and Ramsey County.

Dr. Mike Mathe, formerly of Maplewood and now resident of North St Paul, reported on how the shares were determined for the cost of lake remediation. The homeowners have pitched in their money, as has Oakdale; the North Saint Paul city council was voting this very evening. Dr. Mathe reported that he had actually sent the money today for the first half of the treatment. It appears that Maplewood, if it pays the $7,500, will be paying less than its proportional share. Dr. Mathe also read portions a letter from the DNR extolling the ecological benefits of reduction of these invasive plants. He explained that the longer these plants are in a lake, the more damage they cause. He also provided further information on the treatment details, and the importance of a long-term treatment plan — and the fact that there is no known “cure” to completely eradicate either of these species. The main treatment takes 5 years, but there may further “spot treatments” up to 10 or 15 years in the future.

Chairman Beardsley asked if the $40,000 would be a yearly contribution or an one-time expense. Dr. Mathe explained that this year would be the largest cost, but then each subsequent year would be less, since the costs are based on the treated acreage and amount of chemicals needed to be used.

How will it be applied? There's been a change on the labeling for 2,4-D, so it will now be used in a granular form, to apply it with a specialized spreader from an air-boat (like one of those Everglades boats). The EPA changed requirements in 2004 necessitate granular rather than liquid 2,4-D in situations like this. The other herbicide, endothol, is applied with special nozzles that go down to root level, under water, guided with a computer and GPS system.

Sherill asked, will the dead plants be taken out of the lake? Answer: The plants will remain in the lake, and by doing this treatment early enough the weeds will be targeted, and after they are killed they will also serve to fertilize the native species.

Sherill asked if we have other infected lakes in Maplewood. Konewko reported that we do have numerous other lakes. He said this is an item that will be brought back to the commission in the future, because of the issues on other Maplewood lakes, particularly Kohlman's Lake.

There was some discussion of the effects of the chemicals, in terms of harm to fish. Apparently if applied correctly 2,4-D should be OK, but in larger quantities it is toxic to fish. The application will apparently be even less than what the manufacturer recommends, partly because of a lack of certainty about dosage due to the new EPA requirements (granular versus liquid).

Beardsley asked, will it be necessary to close the lake during the application of the pesticide? Mathe said there will be a time during which the lake will be posted, perhaps 14 days, when people will not be allowed to use sprinkers, fishing, etc.

The audience was invited to comment.

Ron Cockriel came forth as a citizen to ask several questions. While he offered praise for many aspects of the plan, he also voiced concerns about the approach and the compressed timeline for the decision, and broader concerns about issues like best practices for managing the lake in the future in terms of boat traffic, etc. He also suggested a joint powers agreement among the cities encompassing the lake.

Bruce Roman wished to ask about the history of the use of these chemicals in Maplewood, and also whether the “no motorized boats” proposal is still on the table. Konewko said that the parks commission motion regarding motors has been recorded to be submitted to the council for reconsideration. With respect to the first part of Roman's question, Konewko reported that White Bear Lake has been using it for well over 10-15 years, and there are numerous metro lakes currently involved in this chemical treatment, using both 2,4-D and endothol.

Patty Gearin asked about the use of 2,4-D, which Dr. Mathe had said had been used on the lake for a decade or more, and why the weeds were still there. Mathe clarified that it was homeowners treating areas right in front of their property, not out on the lake. Lisa expressed concern about the effects of herbicides in the environment. She reported that she just heard that the highest level of breast cancer is around White Bear Lake and no one knows why, but she wondered about the news that these chemicals have been used on White Bear Lake for a long time.

Beardsley asked what was the desire of the commission. Tom Moibi offered a motion for the city to contribute. Beardsley agreed, but said he had some conditions or recommendations to put on it. First was to make sure homeowners receive education; second, to establish a no-mow strip of at least 10-25 feet along the edge of the lake, in keeping with the wetland ordinance of buffer zones; and third, to recommend the limit of motors on the lake if possible, to help control the continued spread of the invaders. He wasn't sure if closing the boat ramp would help, but the city should limit it to non-motorized traffic if possible. Sherill agreed with the non-motorized restriction in particular, and also emphasized the value of the education component. She also suggested that this might be a test project for Maplewood's other problem lakes, and so supported Maplewood contributing to this project.

Konewko reiterated the motion and its three conditions for clarification. Ginny Yngling offered a second. All commissioners voted aye.

And at that the meeting was adjourned, in order to yield the room to the Planning Commission. The remaining items on the agenda (item six, Discussion of wetland issues as it relates to a Land Use Plan and Zoning Map Change request for the former Ramsey County Library at 1670 Beam Avenue; and item 7, Election of Officer – Vice Chair) were tabled until the next meeting.