Brown’s Creek


Project  •  How does it help Brown's Creek  •  Cost  •  Documents  •  Construction  •  Photos

Brown’s Creek is the namesake of Brown’s Creek Watershed District (BCWD) and a designated metro trout stream. But in recent years the stream hasn’t been home to as many trout and cold-water insects as we would hope. The creek is too warm and too muddy.

In order to figure out how to help improve Brown's Creek, a stressor identification study and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study and implementation plan were completed.

Since the action plan was approved in 2012, BCWD has been busy working with our communities, Washington County, the State of MN, private businesses, non-profits, and residents to improve Brown's Creek.

  • Attached Document or FileBrown's Creek Trout 2002
  • Attached Document or FileBrown's Creek Visual Assessment 2016

The assessment tool used is from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) called the Stream Visual Assessment Protocol (SVAP). The goal is to evaluate stream health and identify potential sources of sediment from the watershed as well as obstructions that may cause problems such as beaver dams. The assessment was done over four days in the spring of 2016. A total of 40 reaches were evaluated including all public and private crossings on the creek. All of the reaches scored good to excellent which means no single reach is severely impaired with erosion or sediment issues.
2019 CWF Brown's Creek Riparian Improvement
BCWD identified 2,400 linear feet of Brown’s Creek near the Millbrook development in Stillwater in need of additional riparian shading through a recently completed Riparian Shade Study. Working with the city of Stillwater and the Millbrook Home Owners Association, BCWD removed invasive woody trees and shrubs and strategically planted native plants, shrubs and trees to increase the amount of shade over the creek during the growing season to reduce stream warming in reaches 10B and 11. This project began with the invasive species removal in late fall/winter 2021 and native planting was completed fall 2022.

2019 CWF Oak Glen Golf Course Reuse
BCWD was awarded a 2017 Clean Water Fund Grant in the amount of $360,100 to partner with Wilson Golf Group/Oak Glen Golf Course to divert nutrient-rich, warm water from the McKusick Road wetland outlet to the Oak Glen Golf Course irrigation system. This water would have flowed directly into Brown's Creek, but instead is being utilized on the golf course, reducing groundwater use by 15 million gallons per year. The project is reducing temperatures in Brown's Creek by 0.4 degrees Celsius. This may not seem like a lot, but this portion of the trout stream is near enough to being able to sustain cold-water trout that this small reduction in temperature is the difference to trout dying or surviving. The reuse project is also reducing phosphorous from both Brown's Creek and downstream St. Croix River by 78 pounds per year. The project was completed November 2020-November 2021.
CWF 2017 McKusick Road Stormwater Retrofit
BCWD was awarded a 2017 Clean Water Fund Grant in the amount of $274,250 to partner with Washington County to retrofit McKusick Road during the 2017 road improvement project, providing water quality treatment to this 5,900 foot section of McKusick Road that previously discharged 25.5 acres of untreated stormwater to Brown's Creek, a designated trout stream listed as impaired due to high thermal and total suspended solids loadings. The project was completed June-August 2017.
CWF 2017 Brown's Creek Riparian Shading
Brown's Creek Watershed District received a 2017 Clean Water Fund Accelerated Implementation grant in the amount of $51,525 to target the type and location of riparian restoration needed to shade three miles of Brown’s Creek, a trout stream in Stillwater, MN impaired for thermal and sediment loading, to reduce monthly mean baseflow stream temperatures by 0.5 to 1°C. The project field work was completed in 2017 and the report was completed in 2018. Four priority sites were identified for riparian shading restoration with work to begin on two of the sites in 2019.

CWF 2015 Brown's Creek Trails Park Retrofit
BCWD was awarded a 2015 Clean Water Fund Grant in the amount of $204,350 to address thermal and sediment loading to Brown’s Creek by retrofitting the Brown’s Creek Trails Park parking lot to treat 1.6 acres of runoff from the parking lot and Neal Ave (between McKusick Road and the Brown’s Creek State Trail) with a bioswale, an underground storm water pre-treatment facility, and an underground rock crib (the Project) on City Park property. The project was completed in 2017.

CWF 2014 Brown's Creek Thermal Model
BCWD received a 2014 Clean Water Fund Grant for $33,500 to develop a thermal model to better understand the extensive and complex in-stream temperature and local climate data already collected. The model was completed in 2016 and is being used to help determine thermal sources and the most cost-effective management projects and practices to reduce thermal loading to Brown's Creek.
Brown's Creek State Trail Realignment - Floodplain Restoration 2014
Brown's Creek State Trail was realigned during trail construction to provide a floodplain bench. The newly excavated area was seeded and planted fall 2014. Some final installation items will be completed in spring 2015.
CWF 2013 - Countryside Auto Repair
The project was installed October/November 2014 on MN DNR Trails Property by Brown’s Creek Watershed District during MN DNR's construction of Brown's Creek State Trail. The project is an underground water quality unit capable of trapping a significant amount of sediment from rainwater before it enters Brown’s Creek, a designated trout stream listed as impaired for high sediment and high temperatures. Maintenance will be performed by BCWD with access permission from Countryside Repair. Partial funding was received through the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment Fund.

CWF 2013 - Neal Ave Neighborhood Stormwater Retrofit
Brown's Creek Watershed District (BCWD) has identified this project as a part of the Brown's Creek TMDL Implementation. The identified untreated residential development in Stillwater directly contributes stormwater to Brown's Creek, a DNR designated trout stream currently impaired for turbidity and lack of cold water assemblage. The main stressors for Brown's Creek are total suspended solids and thermal loading. By working with seven residential landowners in the neighborhood, BCWD installed 9 street-side raingardens to infiltrate 3.86 acre-feet of warm stormwater and to remove 1.3 ton of the total suspended solids and 6.6 pounds of total phosphorous per year from Brown’s Creek. The project was completed in 2015.
Brown's Creek Biota TMDL - Approved 2012
CWF 2011 - Oak Glen Golf Course Buffer
Brown's Creek Watershed District partnered with Oak Glen Golf Course to restore 1,300 linear feet of Brown’s Creek as it flows through the golf course adding more than two acres of native buffer along the stream bank. The project was completed in 2012.

CWF 2010 - Stillwater Country Club
Unstable Bluffs in Brown's Creek Gorge - 2010
Two actively eroding bluffs within the “lower gorge” were identified via inventories associated with the Brown’s Creek Impaired Biota TMDL (authored in October 2010). The bluffs are wholly on public property, owned by the Minnesota Department Natural Resources (MNDNR), as part of the Brown’s Creek Aquatic Management Area. Access to the pair of bluff instabilities poses significant challenges and the cause of the instability is complex and multifaceted.

Project Site September 2015 - 1 year since construction

Brown's Creek Watershed District, the MN DNR Trails and Countryside Auto Repair partnered to reduce the amount of dirty water that drained untreated directly into Brown's Creek. The project was entirely on the Brown's Creek State Trail right-of-way.

To make the best use of space, the water quality treatment is done underground by installing an underground Water Quality Unit. The rainwater and snow melt flow into the underground structure, carrying with it a lot of sediment and debris that could harm the trout stream. The water quality unit allows the sediment and debris to drop out into the structure, allowing the cleaned water to continue on to Brown's Creek.

How does the project help Brown's Creek?

The Water Quality Unit traps about 1 ton of sediment per year, keeping Brown's Creek cleaner. With that sediment comes phosphorus (the nutrient that helps algae grow in water), so we also reduce phosphorous by 2.5 pounds per year, keeping about 750 pounds of algae from growing in Lake St. Croix. Oils and other floatable chemicals from this commercial facility are also kept out of Brown's Creek and the St. Croix River.

The project was installed in October/November 2014. To keep the unit working for decades to come, all that sediment will need to be vacuumed out with a special truck approximately twice a year.

Project Cost

The project cost $117,985.57 (including design and construction)
Leveraged Clean Water Fund Grants = $72,500 (61%)
Local BCWD tax levy = $45,485.57

How does the water quality unit work?


Water enters the underground water quality device.


Sediment, floating debris and oil are trapped.


BCWD will do regular maintenance to remove trapped sediment and debris.

Construction photos


Before project.


During construction of underground device.


Post construction, November 2014.  Trail side.

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