What is VLAWMO and Why Should I Care?

By Gretchen Artig-Swomley

VLAWMO stands for Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization. It was formed in 1983 to protect the Vadnais Lake watershed area in northern Ramsey County and a small part of Anoka County.

All land within the Twin Cities metropolitan area has to be organized into watershed districts, or Watershed Management Organizations, according to state law.

A watershed is all the land area that drains to a specific water resource, such as a lake or stream. Watersheds range in size from a few square miles to an entire continent. As rainwater and melting snow run downhill, they carry sediment and other materials into streams, lakes and groundwater. The land use activities within a watershed have a direct impact on the quality of the water. Watersheds provide water for drinking, irrigation, streams and activities such as fishing, swimming and boating. In addition, watersheds also provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Watersheds don’t follow political boundaries, such as city or county lines. A watershed’s boundary is based on how the water flows in a particular area. Topography of the land, storm sewer pipes and groundwater flow must all be considered when determining a watershed’s boundary.

VLAWMO was formed by a joint powers agreement, and encompasses the cities of Gem Lake, Lino Lakes, White Bear, North Oaks and Vadnais Heights, as well as White Bear Township.

Our watershed management organization shares responsibility with its member communities to manage storm water and control flooding, protect and manage wetlands through the Wetlands Conservation Act and protect and enhance water quality in local lakes and streams. Additional responsibilities are to promote good erosion control and water quality practices.

VLAWMO stays busy conducting a variety of programs, all designed to protect our water resources. For instance, VLAWMO does water quality monitoring, watershed restoration projects and public education programs on such things as building your own rain garden.

VLAWMO charges a storm water utility fee, as allowed by state law. In the past, VLAWMO assessed its six communities a flat fee proportionate to their populations. That meant that citizens paid part of the fee whether they were in the watershed or not. As of 2007, only residents within the watershed were assessed a storm water utility fee. This fee was based on the amount of impervious surface typically on a residential or commercial parcel of a particular size. In effect, the fee is meant to reflect the amount of storm water each parcel is typically generating. These fees are used to fund VLAWMO, restore storm water facilities in member communities and do such things as closely monitor nine specific lakes within the watershed, including Gem Lake. For more information on VLAWMO, contact 651-204-6073.


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