ACD Projects Dashboards: Tracking and Visualizing Conservation Benefits

 When projects are installed, ACD staff calculate and document the benefits produced by them. Measurable benefits for water resource improvement projects include metrics such as nutrient and sediment reductions to local waterbodies. For ecological projects, the total area restored or enhanced is quantified. Until recently, these numbers lived in project-specific documentation, but they can now be viewed altogether in ACD's new interactive projects dashboards.

With dashboards, you can explore the cumulative benefits produced through projects such as habitat restorations, streambank stabilizations, pollinator plantings, and stormwater best management practices. Many projects have multiple benefits; for example, rain gardens trap and filter polluted stormwater while also providing habitat for pollinators. Altogether, these tools provide a user-friendly way to track achievements within and across years.

You can apply filters based on location, date range, and project type. For example, selecting the "Last Year" option in the date range dropdown will give you a summary of all conservation benefits achieved in 2022. Pan throughout the map and click on the points to learn more about individual projects. The gauges will adjust to summarize the benefits produced by the projects you're viewing.

ACD Contact: Breanna Keith, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Lakeshore Stabilizations Coming to the Sunrise River Chain of Lakes

The Anoka Conservation District, in partnership with the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization, are poised to receive a $78,500 State Clean Water Fund Grant. The application scored 4th highest among 47 project applications statewide. The grant will fund shoreline stabilizations including native plant buffers. Target lakes are Martin, Linwood, and the Coon Lake Basins with work expected to begin in 2023 and 2024. 

ACD Contact: Jamie Schurbon, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Creating and Enhancing Habitat in Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Zones and Conservation Corridors

I have fond memories of chasing fireflies in the neighborhood's empty lot and watching them glow in jars. It was a joy to see their light show. After living in the west for 15 years, I was excited to move back to the Midwest to be closer to family AND to see those fireflies once again with my kids. Sadly, we rarely see them these days.

There has been a significant decline in pollinators worldwide due to pesticides and habitat loss. Pollinators including; fireflies, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and native flies, play a key role in pollinating many commercial crops and are an essential part of natural environments. The loss of these species is getting noticed and many are trying to help.

Fortunately, there are technical and financial resources available to help enhance pollinator habitat. The MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) received funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, to create cost-share programs for pollinator-friendly native plantings and habitats. The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) is a recipient of BWSR's Lawns to Legumes Demonstration Neighborhood grants. ACD collaborated with local Watershed Districts, Cities, church groups, libraries, volunteers and residents to complete 53 pollinator plantings. Those plantings together, create habitat corridors within Anoka County along the Mississippi and Rum River, Coon Creek and Rice Creek Chain of Lakes. ACD also received funding from BWSR's Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot Program and are collaborating with Anoka Parks and Cities to convert turf areas to native plantings and to enhance native prairies. These programs create opportunities for collaboration, education, engagement with residents and most importantly, improve pollinator habitat. 

This map shows High Potential (red) and Dispersal (yellow) zones for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Green areas on the map are Metro Conservation Corridors and Public Lands. The yellow dots are sites funded by the Lawns to Legume program and the orange dots are sites funded by the Habitat Enhancement Landscape Pilot program. ACD strives to work with Partners including residents to increase biodiversity and enhance habitat in Anoka County.

There are still cost share opportunities to create pollinator habitat in your yard. Applications for INDIVIDUAL Lawns to Legumes grants with Metro Blooms will be accepted through January 18, 2023.Apply online at Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water's website.
My family has only seen fireflies in our yard once, but we've enjoyed frequent visits from all sorts of other pollinators including monarchs and bumble bees in our native plantings. Birds are also fun to watch on tree and shrub berries and wildflower seeds.
Learn more about what you can do to help:
Xerces Society
BWSR Lawns to Legumes
MN Department of Agriculture- Pollinators
MN Department of Natural Resources - Pollinators
Audubon Native Plants Database

ACD Contact: Carrie Taylor, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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2022 – A Year of Water Quality Projects and Benefits

 This past year, ACD was again busy installing projects that benefit water quality in Anoka County! In total, 33 individual water quality projects were installed in 2022, including:

  • 12 curb-cut rain gardens, treating 25.9 acres of urban area draining to the Rum River and Rice Creek.
  • 9 streambank stabilization projects, and 2 streambank buffer plantings protecting and enhancing over 2,000 linear feet along the Rum and Mississippi Rivers.
  • 10 Lakeshore stabilizations and buffer plantings along 824 feet of lakeshore on George, Martin, Linwood, and Fawn Lakes.

Collectively, these projects will reduce annual pollutant loading to the receiving waterbodies by 94.9 tons of total suspended solids, and 88.6 pounds of total phosphorus. To see all of our projects, watch for our new Water and Ecological Project Dashboards, coming soon to our website!

Photos of some water quality projects newly installed in 2022 – rain garden (top left), lakeshore (bottom left), and streambank stabilizations (top right, bottom right).

ACD Contact: Jared Wagner, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Rum RIM protects 149 acres and 8,370 feet of shoreline in northern Anoka County

Anoka Conservation District and other SWCDs are working together to prioritize parcels and enroll willing landowners in BWSR's Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve in the Rum River Watershed. The RIM Reserve program compensates landowners who are willing to give up development rights on their land in perpetuity to permanently preserve the natural landscape. The Rum River flows from Lake Mille Lacs to the Mississippi River through diverse landscapes and land uses. Protecting priority lands will benefit water quality and Twin Cities' drinking water supply, as well as improving wildlife habitat and connectivity. 

ACD is grateful to the families in northern Anoka County who just recently enrolled their land in BWSR's RIM program. Those families cherish the natural state of their land and the Rum River. Thanks to them, 149 more acres of land will be protected.

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Anoka-Ramsey Community College provides helping hands for rare plants and rare habitats

ACD staff have been collaborating with Professor Kristen Genet to create hands-on learning opportunities for an Anoka-Ramsey Community College Ecology class. The class learned about rare plants, rare habitats and the invasive species that threaten them, and provided service through their learning. The class got out to plant native grasses and wildflowers to create a dry prairie pollinator garden in a Coon Rapids park. They also conducted rare plant surveys to help guide rare plant rescue planting densities and removed buckthorn that was starting to grow into areas with rare plants. Thanks to Kristen Genet and students for all their contributions!  

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22 Billion Lbs of Salt Will Do That To You

That's how much chloride is released into the environment annually in Minnesota. The biggest sources (in order) are road deicing salts, synthetic fertilizer, and household water softening. Perhaps it should be no surprise we find them increasing in essentially all Twin Cities streams and rivers.

A just-released study from the Metropolitan Council shows increasing chlorides in 18 Twin Cities streams and rivers they monitored. They looked at data from 1999-2019, including data collected by the Anoka Conservation District. Of 18 streams, 17 have a trend of increasing chlorides. Locally, our Rum River has that trend but thankfully low chloride concentrations so far compared to other streams. Chloride tends to be highest in areas with the highest road density.

A few tips to reduce deicing salt and still have good footing:

  • Shovel first.
  • Use the right amount. Salt works most efficiently (for chemistry reasons) with ~2 inches between salt granules. That means 12 oz. covers a 20 foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.
  • Don't salt below 15 degrees. Sodium chloride doesn't work below that temperature.


See the full Metropolitan Council report at https://metrocouncil.org/Wastewater-Water/Services/Water-Quality-Management/Water-Monitoring-Pubs/2022-Chloride-Report.aspx 

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Rum Riverbank Washout Stabilized Near Rum River Central Boat Ramp

In May of 2022, the Rum River reached its highest peak flow since 2001 following torrential rain events in Isanti and Mille Lacs Counties. The roadway to the boat ramp in Rum River Central Regional Park in Anoka County was inundated under feet of water. When the floodwaters receded, 90 linear feet of bank had completely washed out, threatening the roadway and boat ramp, and leaving and exposed eroding bank dumping sediment into the river. This section of washed out riverbank was stabilized using a Flexamat PLUS articulated concrete mat at the toe, and a regraded and native-seeded slope above. A rock barb installed at the downstream end will provide in-channel habitat for fish and invertebrates while also kicking flow out away from the boat ramp.

The Flexamat articulated concrete was chosen for this project because an immediately adjacent project installed in 2015 is still holding very successfully, even after the flooding. An advantage of Flexamat vs. rock is that the Flexamat has void spaces that allow vegetation to grow between the blocks, masking the concrete during low water conditions, and providing additional habitat benefit. Traditional riprap does not allow this vegetation growth, and can look like a rock wall during low water.

In the spring, we will add bare root seedlings of shoreland tree and shrub species to the project site. The native grasses and sedges seeded into the bank will begin to grow, and the whole bank will establish deep-rooted native vegetation which will keep the soil anchored for years to come. A video short of this project can be found on ACD's YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/eUHBV5TSNi8. To see other streambank stabilization projects installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

Before (top) and after (bottom) of 90-feet of streambank stabilized at Rum River Central Regional Park.
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Monitoring Drought Strategically

The majority of the state is currently experiencing drought conditions, including Anoka County. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a map that is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts' assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought, including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year.

Each week, drought experts consider how recent precipitation totals across the country compare to their long-term averages. They check variables including temperatures, soil moisture, water levels in streams and lakes, snow cover, and meltwater runoff. Experts also check whether areas are showing drought impacts such as water shortages and business interruptions. To learn more about current drought conditions in Anoka County and other areas of the country visit https://www.drought.gov/states/minnesota/county/anoka

Anoka County
USDM’s five-category system
Current drought statistics for Anoka County
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The Benefits of Simple Lakeshore Practices

The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) recently installed a 70-foot lakeshore restoration project to mitigate active erosion at a property on the east side of Martin Lake in northern Anoka County. This section of property is heavily used by the family and was a priority to keep intact. The shoreline had receded/eroded back, with certain areas experiencing severe undercutting caused by wave action. These vulnerable sections could lead to additional property loss in the future and contribute to pollutant loading into Martin Lake, further degrading water quality. 

As designed, this project should stabilize the shoreline and allow new vegetation to become established from existing native sources. It is estimated that the project will prevent 1.3 pounds/year of phosphorous from entering the waterbody throughout the life of the project.

Coir logs are designed entirely of natural materials that are made to biodegrade into the soil overtime. The material is inexpensive, durable, and able to be shaped uniquely to the shoreline. Coir logs can be purchased in different densities, lengths, and diameters, depending on the erosion situation. Compared to other types of erosion control practices, coir logs are low in cost and can be installed by landowners without professional guidance. These practices are also easy to maintain because landowners can fix individual sections that may be damaged over time.

Coir logs protect against wave action and allow banks to stabilize while encouraging vegetation growth. Sections of coir logs are installed in a continuous line near the bank and secured into place using wooding stakes which will also naturally degrade. Aquatics plants are commonly planted into the coir log to provide more enhancement.

This project was funded by the landowner and the ACD cost-share program. ACD provided project administration, design services, and project installation. 

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Bringing Adopt-a-Drain to Martin Lake

Martin Lake in Linwood Township has been classified as "impaired" since 2004, with an excess of phosphorus being a leading cause of its degradation. This particular water contaminant often comes from plant material and fertilizer, and it only takes a pound of phosphorus to create up to 500 pounds of algal growth in a lake. The subsequent two decades since 2004 have seen an array of water quality improvement projects implemented on Martin Lake's shores and in its waters. As a result, phosphorus levels have been inching closer and closer to Minnesota's water quality standard over the last few years, and a de-listing may be on the horizon if these trends persist.

Storm drains can be a significant source of leaves, grass clippings, and other pollutants to the lakes that they drain to. Luckily, Minnesota is home to the successful Adopt-a-Drain program which provides a way for people to select local drains to personally keep free of debris and protect local water sources. Up until this summer, the drains leading to Martin Lake had not been mapped and available for adoption on Adopt-a-Drain's website. 

As part of ACD's work to improve Martin Lake's water quality, we have remedied this and created a map and flyer to promote these drains to people who live in the neighborhoods along the lakeshore. Through sharing these resources with the lake association and local Facebook groups, 11 drains leading to the lake have now been adopted! Thanks to the people who have volunteered, less debris will be getting into the lake from the surrounding streets, which will help Martin Lake in its journey to getting de-listed in the future. We hope to see more people along the lake join the cause now that these drains are available for adoption!

If you're interested in supporting your local water bodies by adopting a drain, check out https://mn.adopt-a-drain.org/ to get started. 

A selection of drains along Martin Lake that are now adopted.
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Stabilizing Riverbanks in Anoka

Construction is complete on six streambank toe stabilization projects on the Rum and Mississippi Rivers in Anoka. These sites have had significant and accelerating erosion in recent years due to sustained high water and recreational watercraft. Most of the sites lie between two popular boat launches on the rivers.

Cumulatively, over 720 linear feet of eroding riverbank was stabilized. The primary stabilization technique is rock riprap installed on the lower portion of the slope, with a seeded and blanketed vegetative zone above the rock. The primary immediate goal of these projects was to halt the backwards march of the riverbanks by stabilizing the lower portion (or toe). An additional vegetation component is planned for these sites in the following year(s) to help stabilize the upper slope, which is only subject to wave action during the highest water periods. This vegetative zone will be comprised of native woody species, as well as grasses, sedges, and forbs, to enhance the habitat and aesthetic value of the shorelines, while also providing deep root structure to anchor the soil in place above the rock. 

The projects were done via barge from the water, a first for ACD-managed projects. Many of these sites had been on our inventories, but were not cost-effectively constructible from land. With a contractor that can install projects from the water, concerns about equipment access between buildings and site restoration on individual properties are non-factors. Beyond stabilizing these six eroding shorelines, we are hopeful that this new construction technique opens up more potential streambank stabilization projects that would have otherwise not been possible or cost-effective from land. To see these and other streambank stabilization projects installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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Construction Complete for Anoka Rain Gardens

Four rain gardens were installed in a northern Anoka neighborhood as part of the City's 2022 Street Surface Improvement Project. Collectively, these gardens will capture nearly 10 acres' worth of stormwater runoff (over 700,000 gallons annually) which would otherwise drain untreated to the Rum River. Through this, sediment loading to the river will be reduced by 969 pounds/year, and total phosphorus loading will be reduced by 3 pounds/year.

Each garden provides additional ecological benefits through the planting of a diverse range of native species, creating several hundred square feet of rich pollinator habitat within the Rum River corridor. Species planted included butterfly weed, cardinal flower, swamp milkweed, red-osier dogwood, dwarf bush honeysuckle, and several others. 

Funding for project design was provided by the Metropolitan Conservation Districts Engineering and Technical Assistance Program, and funding for construction was provided by the City of Anoka and State Watershed-based Implementation Funding.
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Protecting Pollinators at the ACD Office

Plant species that are "native" to a local area (i.e., grow there naturally) provide necessary food and habitat for pollinators and enhance soil and water quality. Outdoor spaces that are in covered in turf provide very few benefits to pollinators or the environment, so frequent pockets of natural spaces are critical in developed areas. We recently converted part of our office property from an area that was annoying to mow into beneficial pollinator habitat! Here's how we did it:

In early summer, we used "sheet mulching" to kill off the grass and weeds. If you can plan to have a couple of months before planting, this is an easy method to prepare a site without using herbicides. The future garden space was fully covered in cardboard sourced from our local recycling facility and then covered with a couple inches of mulch. This effectively smothered existing weeds.

We selected 11 native wildflower species, 2 native shrub species, and 2 native grass species for the garden that will thrive with the amount of natural sun and water that the spot gets. Adding wildflowers is a no-brainer to provide nectar for pollinators, but adding grasses sometimes gets overlooked in pollinator gardens. Native grasses provide homes for insects to overwinter in and add beautiful texture to a space! There are many great places to order native plants from in Minnesota; we used Minnesota Native Landscapes and Glacial Ridge Growers.

Since our garden is next to a sidewalk, it was lined with river rock to create a cleaner look and contain the mulch. 

In early fall, the plants arrived and were planted. By this time, the cardboard underneath had broken down enough that it was easy to rip gaps in it to dig holes for the plants. Autumn planting gives plants an edge for developing strong roots in their new home and is a great option if you miss the spring planting window. The plants were spaced about 1.5 feet apart to leave them with room to grow into their full-sized forms. The already-present mulch will help hold in water and continue to suppress weeds.

It will be exciting to watch these new plants grow over the coming year to create a beautiful spot that will support some of our essential pollinator species in Anoka County.

You can also follow these steps to convert areas of your property that may not get much traffic or are hard to mow into a space that will benefit everyone! 

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Stabilizing Riverbanks in Anoka

Construction is beginning on six streambank stabilization projects on the Rum and Mississippi Rivers in Anoka. These sites have had significant and accelerating erosion in recent years due to sustained high water and recreational watercraft. Most of the sites lie between two popular boat launches on the rivers.

Cumulatively, over 720 linear feet of eroding riverbank will be stabilized. The primary stabilization technique will be rock riprap on the lower portion of the slope, with a seeded and blanketed vegetative zone above the rock. This vegetative zone will be comprised of native species of grasses, sedges, and forbs to enhance the habitat and aesthetic value of the shorelines, while also providing deep root structure to anchor the soil in place above the rock. 

Mini excavator applying rock to a shoreline on the Mississippi River via barge

The projects will be done via barge from the water, a first for ACD-managed projects. Many of these sites had been on our inventories, but were not cost-effectively constructible in a typical fashion from land. With a contractor that can install the project from the water, concerns about equipment access between buildings and site restoration on individual properties are non-factors. Beyond stabilizing these six eroding shorelines, we are hopeful that this new construction technique opens up more potential streambank stabilization projects that would have otherwise not been possible from land.

Project updates will be provided as construction progresses. To see these and other streambank stabilizations projects already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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