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Preventing lakefront soil erosion: Restoration measures promoted for area shorelines

Young plants are in place on the bank below a retaining wall and patio feature in this September photo showing a property on Diamond Lake after a restoration project. The other photo below shows the same property before the project. (Submitted photo courtesy Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District)1 / 2
A Diamond Lake property is shown in June before a restoration project was undertaken. The other photo shows the same property after a project. (Submitted photo courtesy Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District)2 / 2

WILLMAR — Minnesota lakeshore homeowners spend a lot of money for every foot of their lakefront property, yet every year that valuable soil crumbles and is washed away by erosion.

“People are losing valuable shoreline,” said Vanessa Glieden Henjum, in a presentation Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. “They’re watching their valuable property wash into the lake.”

The trouble is, she said, most of the erosion is happening because of the homeowners’ own actions, including “larger houses and an urban mindset.”

She said removing native plants, mowing lawns to the edge of the water and increasing the impervious surface by building houses and decks on sloping lakeshores is having a negative cumulative effect on the quality of water and wildlife statewide.

Development is “squeezing out” aquatic vegetation that is important to healthy lakes, said Glieden Henjum. “All counties are dealing with this.”

Increased erosion, sediments and phosphorous into waters, and decreased native vegetation, is also causing a loss of frogs and loons and decreased varieties of fish and birds that made lake country special, she said.

The love of nature that brought people to lakes in the first place is disappearing because so many people have moved to lakes, said Glieden Henjum, who coordinates stream and lakeshore restoration projects with the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District.

Restoration projects can put a halt to erosion by returning shorelines to a more natural state.

Grant money covers much of the cost of the projects, which require some financial participation by the homeowners and a willingness to forgo a lawn that’s perfectly mowed and manicured to the water’s edge, she said. That doesn’t mean a ragged or messy landscape but one that could incorporate native grasses, the planting of buffer strips between the lake and house or a better design of decks, stairs and retaining walls that hold soil in place while still looking attractive.

Restoring the shoreline will not eliminate erosion, but it can reduce it, said Glieden Henjum, who works with the county’s zoning department to make sure projects meet ordinances.

She said the program has grant money available and is looking for projects and willing participants.

In other action:

n A conditional use permit was approved for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative to operate a beet piling and storage site in an A-2 general agriculture zone in Colfax Township at the junction of U.S. Highway 71 and 247th Avenue. The Cooperative will be required to repair and maintain roads damaged by the operation, which was of special concern to the Colfax town board. The cooperative must build a berm to contain runoff and needs to obtain a stormwater permit before water can be discharged.

n The commissioners approved distribution of the 2013 township road funds, totaling $358,159. The distribution to the townships was based on a formula of miles and population.

n The commissioners approved the allocation of $130,957 in gravel tax revenues that were generated in 2012. The funds were distributed to the county’s road and bridge fund and to the townships where gravel was mined.

n The commissioners agreed to give the Spicer Commercial Club access to Green Lake from the county park property on Saulsbury Beach this weekend to accommodate the antique snowmobile race. There is a large ice heave at the public access that would make lake access difficult for the 200 competitors.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750