Miller Creek

Miller Creek is unique in that it is a designated trout stream located within a heavily developed urban corridor (the Duluth Miller Hill Mall Area and the City of Duluth). Miller Creek has been the subject of a myriad of studies and has received much attention over the past few decades. The watershed is approximately 10 square miles. It originates from headwater wetlands in Hermantown and empties into Lake Superior at 26th Ave. West just below Lincoln Park.

The primary concern with Miller Creek is the decline and potential loss of the brook trout fishery in the creek. Related concerns include increased water temperatures, sedimentation, loss of habitat, and high chloride and metals concentrations. The overall goal of the Miller Creek Watershed Restoration Project is to provide for a viable, self-sustaining urban trout fishery, as well as to educate the public regarding watershed health and urban impacts to area trout streams.

Miller Creek Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

Listed: 2002
Impairments: Biota (Absence of Trout) and Temperature
Progress: in progress

Current Status: The Miller Creek TMDL Study (Totals Maximum Daily Load)
for lack of cold water assemblage was completed by our office
in 2011 and is still awaiting finalization by the MPCA.

Questions about Miller Creek TMDL?
Contact: Tom Estabrooks
Project Manager for the Lake Superior South Major Watershed
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Miller Hill Mall Stormwater Management Plan

A stormwater management plan for the Miller Hill Mall has been completed by Barr Engineering. This plan is only conceptual, and funding must now be pursued and secured in order to implement the components of the plan. 

Miller Hill Mall Stormwater Management Plan

Coming Soon: Miller Creek Restoration Project – 2021/2022

Previous Miller Creek Projects
Restoration of Ditched Channel Next to UHaul – 2015 
2015 saw the restoration of a stretch of Miller Creek that is squeezed in between Haines Road, Highway 53, and UHaul. The original project, awarded under a Clean Water Fund grant, was supposed to restore 3,000 feet of stream behind Kohl’s department store. Back in 2010, when we applied for the grant, we thought that we could do this relatively large restoration with relatively little money. Myriad stream channel flood recovery projects taught us otherwise, and we were forced to contract this project significantly, in the hopes of funding the larger, long-hoped-for downstream project with some other source.

Fortunately, many hours spent studying Miller Creek and potential restoration design options revealed that it was necessary to restore the short reach next to UHaul in order for the downstream project to succeed. Upon completion of the project, we were thrilled to see a pair of green herons fishing in this reach – another testament to the unique circumstance of having a wild trout stream running through the most heavily developed part of our city.

Grassed Swale BMP at Lake Superior College – 2015
Another component of our 2010 Miller Creek Clean Water Fund grant was to install a Stormwater Best Management Practice within the watershed as a demonstration. After a couple of fits and starts, we finally found the right location – Lake Superior College. LSC is continually trying to manage their property in such a way as to protect the water quality in Miller Creek, which runs right next to the campus. LSC has built (and re-built, after the flood washed it away) a wonderful interpretive trail along the creek, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful reaches of the creek.

In addition, they have a large rain garden, terracing, native grasses, and a very sophisticated (and expensive) stormwater treatment system under one of their parking lots. Though the grassed swale we installed last year was small, it is just another manifestation of LSC’s commitment to clean water. Thank you!

Miller Hill Mall Stormwater Management Plan – 2014 
In February 2014 we received a $186,000 Clean Water Fund grant to develop a comprehensive plan for managing and treating stormwater runoff at the Miller Hill Mall. This project has led to an exciting partnership between the Conservation District, the Mall (operated by Simon Property Group), and Barr Engineering.

“We are extremely excited that the Mall is willing to work on improving their property to help restore its namesake, Miller Creek,” says our conservation specialist Kate Kubiak. “Barr Engineering is also a great asset to have on the project team, as they completed a similar project for the Maplewood Mall that turned out to be just fantastic.”

Parking areas and roofs of Miller Hill Mall add up to 66 acres of impervious surfaces. With so much asphalt around the mall, stormwater runoff heats up as it travels across hot black parking lots and into the creek. A designated trout stream, Miller Creek needs to have cold, clear water in order to provide suitable habitat for trout and meet the requirements of this designated use. Building on other efforts within this urban watershed, the comprehensive stormwater management plan will guide on-the-ground improvements around the mall to retrofit their parking lots and manage how stormwater travels over the property.

In addition to benefiting the watershed, Conservation District staff hope the high visibility of forthcoming Miller Hill Mall stormwater projects will also provide a great educational opportunity, introducing more visitors to the unique natural resources of our area and efforts all can make – individuals and businesses—to protect and improve them.