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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Construction Underway for Anoka Rain Gardens

A thriving rain garden installed in Columbia Heights in 2018. With proper maintenance, native species planted in rain garden will fill the entire space within ~3 years.


Four rain gardens are being 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 will provide 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. 

The largest of the four Anoka rain gardens – a double inlet project which will treat stormwater from two adjacent roadways.

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

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Six Lake George Shorelines Stabilized and Naturalized

The Anoka Conservation District has completed work with six landowners on Lake George to correct shoreline erosion and install native plant buffers. 483 linear feet of shoreline were treated with rock rip rap, coconut fiber biologs, shoreline plantings, or other techniques. The result is 5.9 fewer pounds of phosphorus and 4.8 fewer tons of sediment entering the lake each year.

Lake George water quality is a priority. The lake is heavily used by the public due to a large county park and many homes on its shores, and good water quality. That water quality has been experiencing a slow decline over time. Projects such as these help maintain water quality and also add near-shore habitat that benefits fish and other wildlife. The recently installed projects are further intended to be demonstrations of lake-friendly landscaping for other shoreline homeowners. 

The six project sites were selected from amongst 34 homeowner who expressed interest. Sites were chosen based on degree of erosion, benefit to the lake, and other factors. Funding was from a Watershed Based Implementation Funding grant to the Anoka Conservation District with matching funds from the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization and landowners.

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Spiders: Friend or Foe?

White crab spider with its prey


We have all noticed spiders in our homes or when we are out for a walk. Most of the time, we view them as gross or something to fear. Instead of instantly thinking of spiders as pests that we want to kill or remove from the home, we should try to gain a better understanding of the important role these creatures play within the ecosystem.

Minnesota is home to 519 different species of spiders, including a species of 'jumping spider' that has only been found in Anoka County. 7 of the spider species found in the state are poisonous, but a spider bite resulting in death hasn't been recorded in the United States for decades. Less than 0.5% of spider bites lead to major medical complications.

The main benefit that spiders provide is that they eat a massive amount of insects, consuming on average between 400 and 800 million tons of bugs globally every year. Not only do spiders eat common pests like mosquitos and flies, they also act as a natural insecticide, eating many insects that are known for destroying crops or gardens.

To learn more about why spiders are important, please visit our friends at the Three Rivers Park District: https://www.threeriversparks.org/blog/myths-and-facts-spiders

Black and yellow garden spider
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2023 Tree Sale!

ACD is going to start taking tree orders in mid-October for an end of April pick up. The trees and shrubs are sold as bare root seedlings or transplants ranging from 12" to 18" in height. They may be purchased in bundles of ten for $20 or twenty-five for $40, not including tax. Native prairie seed and tree aides are also available.

You do not need to be an Anoka County Resident to order. 

Call 763-434-2030 x 100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request an emailed notification when the sale starts. 

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The Oxbows of the Rum River

The Rum River in Isanti County


When allowed to wander freely, rivers flowing throughout a gently sloped landscape form a snakelike meandering path. This occurs as the fastest moving waters erode banks along the outer bends, and slower moving waters deposit sediment along the inner bends. Over many years, these processes cause the meanders to curve more intensely, causing the river to eventually loop back onto itself and cut a straight path through the narrow slice of land that remains. Now disconnected from the river, the C-shaped meander scar is called an oxbow.

To watch these processes in action, check out this video: Why Do Rivers Curve?

A quick glance at aerial imagery reveals numerous oxbow wetlands alongside the Rum River. They are rich in plant and animal life, serving as a "nursery" for fish, invertebrates, and amphibians in their early life stages while providing habitat for countless migratory bird species. These oxbows also improve water quality and reduce flooding by capturing water and the contaminants it carries following large storm events.

To learn more about the importance of oxbow wetlands and their utility in water resource management, read the Nature Conservancy's article on the topic here: What is an Oxbow? 

Aerial photos of a Rum River meander in Ramsey captured in 1991, 2003, and 2021 (left-right). Notice the increasingly thin sliver of land at the base of the curve, which eventually transitions to a river cut-through.
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Filling Ditches and Scraping Weeds

Anoka Conservation District, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the City of Andover are working together to restore natural hydrology and establish native vegetation at Pine Hills North Park in Andover. 

A private ditch was plugged and weeds in the basin were scraped and used to fill in the ditch, preventing drainage of water and recreating the conditions of a wetland. The scraped area will be seeded with a mesic prairie seed mix in the fall.

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New Cedar Tree Revetments on the Rum River

Cedar tree revetments are a cost-effective bioengineering practice that can be used to stabilize actively eroding riverbanks. ACD staff in partnership with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota (CCM) installed a cedar tree revetment in Rum South Regional Park in the City of Anoka in July 2022. 

Erosion at the site was dominated by bank undercutting-- the beginning stage of a more serious issue. Excessive erosion along riverbanks threatens property, contributes sediment and nutrients to the receiving water body, and eliminates wildlife habitat. 

Installation of the 550-foot revetment and live bare-root plants will slow or stop the erosion and reduce the likelihood of a much larger and more expensive project being needed in the future. Cedar brush was also installed to provide additional soft armoring. Not only do revetments help protect against erosion, they also provide excellent habitat.

Pollution reduction from this project is estimated to prevent 24.75 tons of sediment and 21.03 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Rum River annually!

Funding for this project was provided by the Conservation Partners Legacy and a CCM crew labor grant funded by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment. ACD provided project management and construction oversight throughout the process.  

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Linwood Lakers Try Out Native Shoreline Plants

Property owners at the Linwood Lake Association annual picnic took home native plants to try in their shoreline landscaping. The plants of 12 species were chosen for their beauty, as well as for providing shoreline stability & habitat.

"Try it, and you'll like it. The first one's free." A free trial can be just what's needed to break through to new customers. At the 2021 & 2022 Linwood Lake Improvement Association annual picnics, the Anoka Conservation District distributed nearly 200 native shoreline plants to be planted all around the lake at 25+ different properties.

Native plants can mean "weeds" to some folks. Or just out of the comfort zone. But the right plant in the right place is beautiful and effective. On shorelines there are a variety of native plants that are the perfect choice– beautiful, strong, and well-adapted to the wet. Good habitat too. They're key to a stable shore and healthy lake.

Thanks to Minnesota Native Landscapes, Inc. who provided the giveaway plants this year. ACD offers technical help and grants for those wanting to do a larger shore stabilization or buffer project.

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Six New Rain Gardens in Fridley!

Construction is complete for six rain gardens at residential lots in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood in the City of Fridley. These rain gardens were placed at high priority locations to intercept and treat stormwater before it enters Rice Creek. The locations were identified during a Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis conducted by ACD in partnership with the City and the Rice Creek Watershed District. The rain gardens were funded by the RCWD's water quality cost share program and the City of Fridley. Landowners have all agreed to long-term maintenance of the gardens to ensure optimal and continuing stormwater treatment. 

Cumulatively, the six rain gardens are estimated to infiltrate 455,000 gallons of water, as well as remove 605 pounds of sediment and two pounds of phosphorus loading to Rice Creek annually. All six rain gardens are vegetated with native plants to maximize infiltration and provide the co-benefit of pollinator habitat. Additionally, one rain garden is located immediately adjacent to a trail entrance into Locke County Park, providing an excellent public education opportunity.

Over the next two to three years, the native plant plugs will get much bigger, filling the gardens with color and life. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. See photos of all six new rain gardens above. 

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Get to Know ACD: Two Truths & A Lie Edition!

Here's our version of a popular kid quiz game. Below are sets of three statements. Can you tell which one is the lie? See answers at the bottom of the page! 

#1:  About the Anoka Conservation District's (ACD) origins…

  • a) ACD began with the purpose of replanting trees lost to the devastating 1939 Anoka tornado.
  • b) We started in 1946 with focus on stemming Dust Bowl era erosion.
  • c) ACD was brought into existence by the voters of Anoka County through a referendum.

#2:  About the Anoka Conservation District (ACD)…

  • d) We're a department of Anoka County that focuses on natural resources issues.
  • e) ACD's elected Board of Supervisors sets the policy and direction of the District and staff work to bring it to fruition.
  • f) Our staff of 12 includes experts on water quality projects, upland habitat restoration, wetlands, and more.

#3:  About ACD's function…

  • a) ACD offers technical and financial incentives to encourage conservation activities and works with willing landowners to make them happen.
  • b) By creating reasonable standards and issuing permits, we are able to stem negative impacts of development.
  • c) We keep our finger on the pulse of our natural resources with an extensive program of monitoring and inventory done in partnership with water management entities.

#4:  About ACD's funding…

  • a) At $0.41 per capita for general services, ACD funding from the county is the lowest funded soil and water conservation district in MN.
  • b) ACD invented, patented, and sells a product that has over $500K in annual sales.
  • c) In 2022 our elected supervisors reduced our tax levy by 5%.

#5: ACD's accomplishments…

  • a) In 2021 we installed 66 projects for water quality and habitat.
  • b) We simultaneously manage 10 different grants that are used for projects.
  • c) Our biggest project in 2021 was nearly ¼ mile of stabilized Mississippi Riverbank.

#6: Collaborations…

  • a) ACD serves as the contracted administrator for three watershed organizations to reduce duplication and coordinate.
  • b) Cities, lake associations, watershed groups, and landowners voluntarily contribute match to help us secure grants for projects of mutual interest.
  • c) We spend a lot of time working with people who are under mandatory permit requirements to do conservation projects.

#7: Stuff we'll help you pay for…

  • a) Our Lawns to Legumes program encourages pollinator habitat. (Legumes are a class of veggies including beans, peas, & clovers).
  • b) Our Green Fields, Blue Water Initiative with the Minnesota Twins will install "smart" irrigation systems on community baseball fields to avoid watering when rain is in the immediate forecast or a game is scheduled to be played.
  • c) Our Septic Fix Up grants help folks in deep crap with repair or replacement a failing septic system. It helps protect lakes and groundwater.

#8: Office life…

  • a) We have "companion ducks" at the office to calm our nerves. When they migrate in winter, staff get pretty edgy. Call during summer.
  • b) We celebrate casual Fridays on Thursdays. When actual Friday arrives, it's a little depressing. Call before Friday.
  • c) Our staff "wellness program" is all about encouraging naps. Life is a race already. Please call after nap time.

ANSWERS

#1: The lie is (a) -- While the 1939 tornado was devastating, it was the Dust Bowl era of drought that prompted a need to connect farmers with practices that were less erosion-prone. We have evolved to include urban and sub-urban conservation practices.

#2: The lie is (a) -- ACD is not an Anoka County department. We are separate, with our own elected supervisors.

#3: The lie is (b) -- We don't have any regulatory authority nor issue permits. We work with willing landowners only.

#4: The lie is (c) -- We don't have tax levy authority. We do receive some funds from the county and grants that originate from taxpayers, but we control none of it.

#5: The lie is (b) -- At any given time we have 20+ different grants totaling over 4 million dollars!

#6: The lie is (c) – We work with willing landowners only. We don't do regulation.

#7: The lie is (b) -- Nice idea, but not yet reality. Consider smart irrigation for your home.

#8: The lie is…all of them. :) 

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The Rules of Recreational Boating

Recreational boating has do's and don'ts and an overall etiquette accepted behavior on and around the water. Best boating practices are about safe behavior, as well as what's socially accepted. Here are the top 10 rules to respectful boating developed by the Minnesota DNR to help you navigate the boating world.

  1. Respect the ramp. Good boating etiquette starts before you enter the water - at the dock. Prepare your boat and equipment before getting into position to launch. Anything else is disrespectful to fellow boaters.
  2. Own your wake. The fastest way to make the wrong kinds of waves is to literally throw a big, obtrusive wave at another boat, swimmer, angler or shoreline owner. This is much more than being a nuisance or disrupting others' experience on the water. It's dangerous to those unable to tolerate a large wake. Stay at least 200 feet from the shoreline and other boaters.
  3. Keep the tunes in check. Sound is amplified over the water, so keep the music at a decent level. Not only is it a disturbance to others but the operator may not hear the spotter.
  4. Pack in. Pack out. Seems like common sense, right? Yet shorelines are still lined with trash being thrown overboard. Take care of the body of water you love and dispose of any trash you have. Do not throw it overboard!
  5. Slow your roll. Does the body of water you're on have a speed limit or slow-no-wake restriction? It's your responsibility to know it and respect it. You are responsible for any damage you cause to other people's property.
  6. Rules of the road. Become familiar with waterway markers and navigation rules, which dictate how you operate your vessel in order to prevent collision.
  7. Be prepared. If you are the captain, you need to be prepared with the safety rules for your craft and make your guests aware as well. Know state and local laws for the body of water you're on. Set a good example by always wearing a life jacket and have enough life jackets for each person onboard. Beyond that, make sure to have the appropriate fit.
  8. Fuel and go. At the fuel dock, get fuel, pay your bill and move out of the way. If you need to buy additional supplies, relocate your boat. Don't forget to run your blower before starting.
  9. Anchoring and mooring. Enter an anchorage or mooring area at a slow speed. Don't create a wake that will disrupt other anchored boats. The first boat sets the tone. Mimic how they tie off, how much line you use and how much distance you allow between you and other boats. The busier the boat, the more space you should give yourself.
  10. Be polite – give a wave. When passing another boat, give a little wave hello. Boating is all about having fun and being part of the boating community. Embrace it, enjoy it, and share it for generations to come.

Remember, these are guidelines and should not serve as a replacement for learning the rules, regulations and laws for your local body of water. Whether you're a novice or veteran boater, learn more by taking a boating safety course. 

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KNOW YOUR SHORELINE

Minor erosion at the toe of slope exposed during low water. If the erosion is addressed early, larger bank failures in the future may be avoided.

If you live on water, whether it be a lake, river, creek, or stormwater pond, low water during the summer months can provide a great opportunity for you to conduct a quick inspection of your shoreline condition. The very bottom of your shoreline, where it meets the water, is called the toe and is the most critical part for stability.

Low water often exposes the toe of the slope and allows you to identify areas of concern. For example, you might observe undercutting, where the lowest portion of the bank has been scoured away by flowing water or wave action. When problems are caught early, the solutions are often much simpler and cheaper. Addressing erosion concerns early also helps prevent more severe bank failures down the road.

Another good time to inspect your bank is in the fall once leaves have fallen and before snowfall. You can inspect the upper portions of your bank for problems like rutting from concentrated overland flow over the top of the bank.

If you have any questions about your shoreline or think a site visit may be warranted, please contact ACD staff. We're here to help. 

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ACD and Partners are Working to Bring Legacy Funds to Enhance Habitat in Anoka County

Anoka Conservation District recently submitted two proposals, HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2 and HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8 to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council ML 2023 Request for Funding. The proposed activities will enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat in Anoka County and collaborate with Partners in the Rum River Corridor and the Anoka Sand Plain Ecoregion.  

HRE07 Rum River Corridor Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement – Phase 2
$3.5M request ($3M for Anoka County) includes:

  • Streambank and in-channel stabilization (2,200 linear feet);
  • In-stream fish habitat with a focus on game fish (1,200 linear feet); and
  • Riparian forest, wetland, and prairie enhancement in the Shoreland Zone (118 acres) including wild rice habitat on tribal lands.

Partners:

  • Anoka, Isanti and Mille Lacs SWCDs
  • Anoka and Isanti Counties
  • Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

HA02 Anoka Sand Plain Habitat Conservation – Phase 8
$8.9M request ($2.15M for ACD) includes:

  • Conservation easements (540 acres)
  • Habitat restoration and enhancement (1,736 acres and 2,200 linear feet of shoreline)
  • Rare plant rescue program

Direct Grant Recipients and Partners:

    • Anoka Conservation District
    • Great River Greening
    • Minnesota Land Trust
    • National Wild Turkey Federation
    • Sherburne County Parks
    • Anoka County Parks
    • City of Anoka
    • MN Landscape Arboretum
    • Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
    • MN DNR Forest Lake WMA
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Rain Gardens in the City of Fridley

Six rain gardens are being installed at residential lots in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood in the City of Fridley. These rain gardens are being placed at high priority locations to intercept and treat stormwater before it enters Rice Creek. The locations were identified during a Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis conducted by ACD in partnership with the City and the Rice Creek Watershed District. The rain gardens are being funded by the RCWD's water quality cost share program and the City of Fridley. Landowners have all agreed to long-term maintenance of the gardens to ensure optimal and continuing stormwater treatment. 

A rain garden under construction in the Rice Creek Terrace neighborhood, City of Fridley

Cumulatively, the six rain gardens are estimated to infiltrate 455,000 gallons of water, as well as remove 605 pounds of sediment and two pounds of phosphorus loading to Rice Creek annually. All six rain gardens will be vegetated with native plants to maximize infiltration and provide the co-benefit of pollinator habitat. Additionally, one rain garden will be located immediately adjacent to a trail entrance into Locke County Park, providing an excellent public education opportunity.

Watch for additional updates as construction is finalized. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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