Brown's Creek Restoration Project

Project Description

Brown's Creek Watershed District has identified a project that will improve the trout stream habitat in Brown’s Creek in Stillwater, which is currently listed as impaired for lack of cold water fish and macroinvertebrates.

BCWD has been working closely with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Waters, Fisheries, and Trails) and the city of Stillwater to identify opportunities to improve the trout stream habitat in Brown’s Creek. A feasibility study shows restoring the existing 2,000 linear feet of Brown’s Creek from McKusick Road just upstream of Brown’s Creek Park to just downstream of the Brown’s Creek State Trail would:

  • Reduce bank erosion and subsequent sediment & nutrient loading to the creek and the St. Croix River
  • Improve Habitat:
    • Rock riffles will increase fish spawning opportunities and provide stable refuge for macroinvertebrates
    • The project will increase the number and depth of pools that will in turn provide thermal refuge for aquatic biota during the summer months and provide overwintering habitat for fish and amphibians
    • Instream woody structure will provide fish and macroinvertebrate habitat and also protect streambanks from erosion.
    • Native seeding will increase pollinator habitat, diversity and extent of native vegetation over invasive species such as common buckthorn, reed canary grass, and garlic mustard.
    • Reconnected floodplain will improve wetland hydrology and help rehabilitate native riparian vegetation.
    • Establishment of brush piles and snag trees will provide refuge for a variety of non-game species such as small mammals, reptiles, and birds.
  • Site access to the creek will include an ADA trail “spur” to create an access to Brown’s Creek from the state trail.

This project is proposed to begin with tree and shrub removal in early 2024, stream restoration summer 2024, continued invasive species management fall 2024, replanting spring 2025. This timing takes into account the limitations for working in a trout stream and avoiding impacts to the Northern long-eared bat.

Proposed Design:

BCWD held a public hearing and ordered the final design for the project at the September 2023 regular board meeting.  The final plan is below:

Brown's Creek Restoration - Final Plans as of 3-18-2024

What is the cost and funding?

The estimated total cost for the project (including engineering and construction) is $451,800.

  • Watershed-wide levy $131,100
  • Federal grant $320,700.

Of the total project cost $347,400 will be used for construction and $104,400 for planning, design, engineering, permitting, and construction oversight.


  • Concept Design & Order Project - September 2023
  • Environment Assessment Worksheet (EAW)
  • Permitting
  • Project Bidding - Feb/March 2024
  • Contracting - March/April 2024
  • Early June: (Delayed from mid-May due to recent rains) Mobilization, prepare site for Phase 1 construction (West of Neal Avenue), construction staking, confirm site utilities, equipment delivery, access paths, clearing & grubbing.
  • June: Phase 1 construction & restoration (West of Neal Avenue).
  • July 1st – July 26th: Phase 2 construction & restoration (East of Neal Avenue).
  • End of July/Early August: Site restoration, final walkthrough, demobilization.
  • Late Summer/Fall 2024 - Monitor site for vegetation establishment.
  • Continued replanting spring 2025.

This timing takes into account the limitations for working in a trout stream and avoiding impacts to the Northern long-eared bat.

Environmental Review

Environmental Review (EAW) and Record of Decision

The Brown’s Creek Watershed District released an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the Brown’s Creek Restoration Project located in Stillwater, MN for review on November 8, 2023, held a public hearing December 13, 2023, accepted written comments until December 21, 2023.  BCWD adopted a record of decision for the environmental review for the Brown's Creek Restoration Project and made a negative declaration on the need for an environmental impact statement on January 10, 2024.  

The trout stream restoration project will to address floodplain abandonment, accelerated bank erosion, invasive species, and degraded instream habitat to restore the ecological and hydrologic functions of the creek and adjacent floodplain. The project will include reconnecting the creek with the floodplain, installing grade control riffles to limit channel incision, installing woody material and boulders for instream habitat, removing woody invasive species, and reestablishing native riparian vegetation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where can I find more detailed information about the project:

  • The EAW has a detail description of the project on page 8:
    • BCWD proposes to enhance approximately 2,500 feet of stream along Brown’s Creek and reconnect several cutoff oxbow channels. The existing reach begins immediately south of McKusick Road and ends just downstream of the Brown’s Creek State Trail (Figure 3). The project will include earthwork to reconnect the creek with the floodplain (approximately 1 to 2.7 feet of cut depending on existing creek bank heights) and to reconnect several cutoff oxbow channels. Several new stream meanders will also be implemented to increase stream length and sinuosity to reestablish a natural meandering stream channel. The project will also include invasive tree and shrub harvest and installation of tree trunks, brush bundles, and rock riffles for fish and macroinvertebrate habitat.
    • The figure to the right (Figure 4 in EAW) shows the proposed project elements. Grade-control riffles will emulate natural rock riffles and will be installed in the creek to increase the baseflow water elevation to restore riparian  hydrology that has been impacted by channel incision. In general, earthwork and selective tree harvest will occur within 50 feet of the creek, but invasive shrub harvest is proposed up to 200 feet from the stream where dense stands of common and glossy buckthorn occur. Many of the trees and shrubs proposed to be harvested will be reincorporated into the project for bank stability and habitat features.
    • The project will also include the creation of an American Disabilities Act-compliant "spur" off Brown's Creek State Trail to improve public access to the creek.
    • Construction site access will occur off McKusick Road and Neal Avenue. No alterations to existing infrastructure are proposed.
    • Erosion control measures that will be implemented during project construction include installation of temporary sediment BMPs such as biologs and soil berms to capture surface soil erosion, and installation of both hydromulch and crimped straw mulch on all disturbed soils. All disturbed soils will be seeded with a cover crop (oats and winter wheat) and native state seed mixes based on land cover type. Erosion control measures will be installed prior to construction, and hydromulch and native seeding will occur immediately after final grading per the project Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.
    • Construction Phasing:
      1. Installation of erosion control BMPs
      2. Initiate selective tree harvest and temporary stockpile of harvested wood
      3. Bank grading and installation of grade control riffles and instream habitat
      4. Installation of hydromulch and native seed to establish permanent vegetation
      5. Removal of erosion control BMPs following establishment of native vegetation

Project Photos

Pre-project - More pre-project photos available here

June 2024 - Mobilization, Clearing and Grubbing for Access Paths

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