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Valley Creek Photo Gallery
Valley Creek is a groundwater-fed, high-quality trout stream located in southeastern Washington County (near Afton, Minnesota) and is a tributary of the St. Croix River. Brown, rainbow, and native brook trout are all present in Valley Creek, providing biological evidence of good water quality. This may be challenged with pressure from future potential land development, leading to higher water temperatures and increased runoff from the land.
In 1997, the St. Croix Watershed Research Station (SCWRS) initiated a long-term monitoring program on Valley Creek to establish baseline conditions and to identify changes over time. Two semi-permanent stations were established on the north and south branches just above their confluence. In 1998, as part of the Watershed Outlet Monitoring Program (WOMP), the Metropolitan Council added a third monitoring station about a mile upstream of where Valley Creek enters the St. Croix River.
Currently, SCWRS maintains operation of all three of these stations. Each station is automated to measure stream stage, water temperature, and specific conductance every 15 minutes to one hour. At the WOMP site, water is also automatically collected from the creek during storm runoff.
Creek water is collected on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to analyze for nitrogen, phosphorus, total suspended solids, and e-coli. Selected samples are analyzed for dissolved organic and inorganic carbon and for nitrates, which are at relatively high levels in Valley Creek (typically between 4-6 mg/L) because of nitrate-enriched groundwater in the aquifer feeding the creek.
Monthly flow measurements are taken to monitor changes in the amount of water moving through the creek over time, which may be affected by climate or the withdrawal of groundwater from the aquifer. Median flow of the main branch has dropped from 17 cubic feet per second (cfs) in 1999, down to about 12 cfs in 2009.
The following series of photographs illustrate the Valley Creek monitoring experience.
Acknowledgements and Funding
We gratefully acknowledge the kindness of the Bell family, the Belwin Conservancy, and Mr. Tom Johnson, private landowners who have permitted establishment of monitoring stations on their properties at no cost to the citizens of Minnesota. Initial funding to establish the monitoring program in 1997 came from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources. In 1998 the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES), with supporting funds from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, constructed the monitoring station near the mouth of the creek. MCES provides continued funding to maintain the equipment and to analyze water samples. Since 2003, the Valley Branch Watershed District has been largely responsible for maintaining the long-term record by funding operation of the three monitoring stations.