ACD Partnering with City of Anoka for Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization

Approximately 1,500 linear feet of eroding riverbank within Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka will be stabilized in 2021. The project is currently in the early stages of design and focuses on a stretch of severely eroding riverbank that was documented in an erosion inventory completed by ACD.

Eroding river banks contribute to the Mississippi River's sediment and turbidity impairments through direct loading of sediment and nutrients that degrade overall water quality as well as aquatic and nearshore habitat. Stabilization of actively eroding riverbanks is one of the most cost-effective practices to improve water quality because 100% of the sediment reaches the waterway.

Stabilization techniques will include bioengineering with native vegetation and a rock armored bottom of slope to stabilize the riverbank. The project will reduce pollutants by 529 tons of sediment and 847 pounds of phosphorus annually. Other benefits include aquatic life diversity and abundance, and improved drinking water quality because the project site is immediately upstream of drinking water intakes for the Twin Cities.

This project will also showcase river stewardship and enhance public recreation. Mississippi River Community Park and adjacent Anoka-owned King's Island include 1.7 miles of Mississippi River trail, 0.78 miles of riverfront, 0.91 miles of oxbow channel, pedestrian access to the island, sporting fields, public duck and deer hunting, and a fishing dock. This project will make over ¼ mile of unsafe riverbank more accessible, stable, and fishable for users. By naturalizing the riparian zone, this project complements the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area rules.

The project is funded by a Clean Water Fund grant, a Watershed Based Funding grant, and match from the City of Anoka. Watch for more updates from ACD and the City of Anoka as the project progresses.

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Teaching Students about Natural Resources during a Pandemic

One activity that ACD does every year is take local high school students to streams near their schools to collect macroinvertebrates. Many of these organisms are the larval forms of many of our common insects. Think mosquitoes, mayflies, black flies, and dragon flies. Assessing the community of invertebrates living in a stream over time can give us a good indication of how healthy that stream is (i.e. how good the water quality is). This is because the different types of these invertebrates have varying levels of tolerance to polluted water. Some can only live in very clean water, while others can survive in very polluted water.

This exciting lesson combines a field trip to a stream and the opportunity to play in the water, with a lesson about the natural world and how we can use the biotic organisms living in those streams to monitor their health over time. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to think outside of the box to make this fun and important lesson happen in 2020. In the spring of 2020, we were not able to do this lesson with any schools, because all of them were full time distance learning, and we had never prepared a distance learning lesson before. This fall however, we got a little more creative.

I made a virtual lesson via Go Pro video with a teacher from the Forest Lake Area Learning Center and his sons. With Totino Grace and St. Francis High School students, we worked in small groups in the field with masks on, disinfecting all equipment between classes. We also had classes attend virtually while a teacher held the live feed camera up and talked to the students that were attending online. Overall, whether by recording, live video stream, or in person at the river respecting social distancing and mask wearing, just about 200 kids still got to take part in this activity from the three schools mentioned. It took a little more time and effort than usual, but in the end we made sure a large number of local students still got the opportunity to take part. 

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Join the Growing Community of Storm Drain Adopters in Anoka County!

Anoka County residents have prevented nearly 350 pounds of algae from growing in our lakes and streams by doing this one simple thing: Adopting a Storm Drain!

Trash and decaying organic debris like fallen leaves are harmful to lakes, rivers, and streams. As leaves decompose, the resulting nutrients fuel algae growth. The unsightly algae blooms can cover the surface of polluted lakes, sucking oxygen out of the water and choking fish and native plants. Keeping leaves and other pollution out of our storm drains helps keep our lakes and rivers clean and clear.

Since the start of the Adopt a Drain program, over 7,400 people have adopted drains throughout Minnesota and collectively prevented 250,000 pounds of pollution from getting into our waters. This is the largest community engagement program of its type in the entire United States!

Getting involved is simple and only takes a few minutes. Just follow these steps:

   1. Adopt an available storm drain near you at www.Adopt-a-Drain.org

   2. Gather the tools you'll need. These might include: gloves, rake, trash grabber, dust pan, safety vest, bins for separating waste, yard and/or trash bag

   3. Collect and separate trash and recycling from the area around your adopted drain

   4. Rake or sweep up leaves, sediment, and sticks and place in compost or yard waste bag

   5. Report the debris you collect on www.Adopt-a-Drain.org


To learn more and sign up, visit www.Adopt-a-Drain.org 

Photo credit: CleanWater MN

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Anoka County is 100% Compliant with the MN Buffer Law

The Anoka Conservation District is proud to announce that Anoka County is now 100% compliant with the state's buffer law! The law was passed back in 2015 with the goal of improving water quality throughout the state by reducing pollutants entering public ditches and public waters. This milestone was achieved through strong partnerships between Anoka County, Anoka Conservation District, local landowners, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources. This achievement doesn't mean that the hard work is over but it does represent what is possible for the state of Minnesota when strong environmental policy is handled on the local level. It will be exciting to see the benefits to the state's water systems come to fruition after years of work.

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Cedar Tree Revetment at Rum River Central Regional Park

ACD installed approximately 650 linear feet of cedar tree revetment at Rum River Central Regional Park this past month. This type of project prevents erosion of shorter river banks using cut eastern red cedar trees anchored along the toe of the bank in a shingled fashion. The thick branches of the eastern red cedars dissipate the erosive energy of the water as it washes along the streambank on the outside bend of a river. In this particular area at the park, a walking trail was at risk of washing out soon if the erosive scour continued unchecked. In addition to protecting the walking trail, this project will keep about 30 tons of sediment out of the river every year!

In order to accomplish this feat, we relied on numerous partnerships. Anoka County Parks helped us by purchasing the cable and earth anchors, as well as providing tree hauling services. Sherburne County donated 130 eastern red cedar trees from county-owned property. And finally, a large portion of the labor involved was done by a Conservation Corps. MN & IA crew that worked on this project for 12 ten-hour days. Thank you to all of these partners! 

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Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization Project Complete

The previously highlighted riverbank stabilization project on the Mississippi River in Ramsey has been completed. The residential property has 100 linear feet of riverbank that was nearly vertical and approximately 25' tall. Severe erosion was causing large portions of the bank to collapse and enter the river every year. The soil associated with those bank failures introduced significant volumes of sediment and nutrients into the river that contributed to water quality degradation. Stabilization of this severely eroding riverbank reduces annual sediment loading to the river by an estimated 224,000 lbs and total phosphorus loading by an estimated 112 lbs.

Project elements included clearing and grubbing of the few trees remaining on the steep slope, grading, riprap at the bottom of the slope, a reinforced soil slope (RSS) above the riprap to the top of the bank, native seed and plants, and erosion control blankets. The RSS consists of a honeycomb-like grid that is anchored to the slope and enables the finished slope to be steeper (e.g. 1.5 horizontal : 1 vertical), which maximizes the preservation of existing trees at the top of the slope.

Project funding is provided by a Clean Water Fund grant and landowner match.

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Three New Rain Gardens in Anoka Help Rum River Water Quality

ACD partnered with the City of Anoka to design three rain gardens that were installed as part of a City street reconstruction project in the 38th Lane neighborhood. Construction wrapped up this month in the yards of three homeowners who volunteered to take on the ownership and maintenance of these great water quality features. These three new rain gardens join two others that were installed in 2017 to clean up stormwater from this neighborhood that otherwise would wash directly to the Rum River via the storm sewer system. In total the three new rain gardens will treat about five acres of drainage area and remove about 1,164 lbs of total suspended solids (TSS) and 3.6 lbs of phosphorus annually from the stormwater runoff originating from those five acres. This results in about a 75% reduction in pollution washing to the river from this area!

Once the new plants have a chance to grow and bloom in these gardens in the coming years, not only will these rain gardens continue to provide an important water quality benefit to the Rum River, they will also host numerous pollinator species throughout the year with their abundant native flowering plants! ACD would like to extend a big thank you to the five landowners in this neighborhood, and dozens elsewhere in the county, that are willing to sacrifice portions of their yard to improve water quality in important waterways like the Rum River. These partnerships with willing private landowners are vital to ensuring clean and clear water for all to enjoy. 

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Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization Construction Underway

Stabilization of a riverbank on the Mississippi River in Ramsey has begun. The residential property has 100 linear feet of riverbank that is nearly vertical and approximately 25' tall. Severe erosion was causing large portions of the bank to collapse and enter the river every year. The soil associated with those bank failures introduced significant volumes of sediment and nutrients into the river that contribute to water quality degradation. Stabilization of this severely eroding riverbank will reduce annual sediment loading to the river by an estimated 224,000 lbs and total phosphorus loading by an estimated 112 lbs.

Project elements include clearing and grubbing of the few trees remaining on the steep slope, grading, riprap at the bottom of the slope, a reinforced soil slope (RSS) above the riprap to the top of the bank, native seed and plants, and erosion control blankets. The RSS consists of a honeycomb-like grid that is anchored to the slope and enables the finished slope to be steeper (e.g. 1.5 horizontal : 1 vertical), which maximizes the preservation of existing trees at the top of the slope.

The project is on schedule to be completed by early October. Project funding is provided by a Clean Water Fund grant and landowner match.
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ACD Hard at Work Removing Carp from Martin Lake

The Anoka Conservation District has been hard at work this September removing invasive carp from Martin Lake, located in northeastern Anoka County. Martin Lake has had a large carp population over the years, which can be extremely detrimental to lake water quality if left unmanaged. This type of work isn't possible without strong partnerships between natural resource professionals and residents of the community. This project and the dedicated volunteers on Martin Lake are a shining example of the level of civic engagement that is achievable when these relationships are nurtured. Thank you volunteers!

Updates are also periodically posted here: Carp Harvests

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ACD Secures Septic System Fix Up Grants

ACD has received news that for the fourth consecutive year we will be receiving Septic System Fix Up grant funds from the MN Pollution Control Agency. The grant funds are directly used to fix non-compliant septic systems where homeowners meet low income thresholds. Enough grant funds are available each year to fix two or three septic systems. For those who don't qualify, several loan programs are available through Anoka County.

For more information about these grants, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit this page: Septic Systems

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Linwood Township Adopts Septic System Point of Sale Ordinance

With funding assistance from the Anoka Conservation District, Linwood Township is taking new steps to ensure local lakes, streams and groundwater are protected. The township is beginning implementation of an ordinance requiring septic system inspections before property ownership transfer. The goal is to ensure septic systems are functioning properly because a failing septic can be both a human health and an environmental threat.

All homes and businesses in Linwood Township, except for a trailer park, have their own septic system. The costs for maintenance and repair fall entirely on the owner. Replacing the system can be costly, at over $10,000. Many homeowners would struggle with this kind of cost. Property sale is one of the few times that funds may be available to address a failing septic system. The ordinance also helps protect buyers from a large liability.

In addition to this new ordinance, Linwood also tracks septic system pumping and reminds homeowners when it is due. In this way, the township is able to remind homeowners of this important maintenance that helps avoid more costly problems. Many other communities in Anoka County also take similar measures.

Photo: Septic System Maintenance Pumping

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Taking Action for Water Quality & Conservation

Join us for a webinar to discuss how water awareness and community action can improve water quality in Minnesota watersheds.

About this Event

This online event will bring together stakeholders to discuss water quality and conservation practices in Minnesota. Anoka County Soil and Water Conservation District, Rice Creek Watershed District, and Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization will highlight their work on these topics while informing attendees on what communities can do to safeguard local watersheds. Conservation Minnesota will facilitate a dialogue in how to use this information for engaging local leaders on water issues.

Presentation topics include:

  • The Anoka Conservation District will highlight the important role of collaboration in water quality management and then take a look inward at the role we all play in keeping our waters healthy.
  • The Rice Creek Watershed District will showcase its programs and discuss how anyone can participate in its available grant programs to help keep our waters clean.
  • The Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization will feature Amelia Lake; covering its watershed, connection to other lakes, and wildlife captured with remote cameras.
  • Conservation Minnesota will present on transparency and accountability in local government and help Minnesotans understand the water and agriculture policy decisions elected officials make on our behalf as we approach the 2020 election.


Time for Q & A and audience discussion will be included.

Registration is Free:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taking-action-for-water-quality-and-conservation-tickets-118174363703

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Buckthorn ID and Control

Late September through the end of October is a good time to inventory common buckthorn on your property. Common buckthorn leaves remain green longer than most Minnesota native trees and shrubs so they will stand out when other trees and shrubs are changing color and dropping leaves.

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) can be found in upland forests. Look for the thorn, which can be found at the end of some branches.

Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) can invade wetlands. There are no thorns. Look for the rust colored terminal bud.

See the buckthorn fact sheet for tips to identify buckthorn, learn about native look-alikes, and find methods for controlling buckthorn.

For a safe way to treat buckthorn stumps, you can apply herbicide with buckthorn blasters/dobbers: https://landscape-restoration.com/

See the DNR's buckthorn management page for more information.

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Seeking Volunteers to Collect Observational Data on Boater Behavior for Pilot Study

As part of a pilot project conducted by the Anoka County Parks and the Anoka Conservation District with funding from the MN DNR, volunteers are needed to collect observational data on boater behavior regarding preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species at Anoka County boat launches. Volunteers will be asked to observe boaters entering and exiting boat launches and record their observations on a data collection worksheet provided to them. This data will then be compiled and used to compare the behavior of boaters prior to and after installation of new boat cleaning equipment at the studied boat launches. Interested volunteers should contact Emily Johnson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about how they can be involved.

Requirements:

  • Ability to travel to boat launches throughout Anoka County.
  • Ability to sit outside for 1+ hours.
  • Ability to send a scan or photograph of your data worksheet via email or text.
  • Some familiarity with preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is helpful, but not required. Training will be provided.


Time Commitment:

  • Timing of volunteering is flexible and dependent on your availability. Weekends, early mornings, and evenings are preferred, but not required.
  • A minimum of 1 hour volunteering is requested. There is no maximum number of hours one can volunteer.
  • The most urgent need for volunteers is between September 1st, 2020 and October 31st, 2020, but there will be additional opportunities to volunteer from May 2021 through October 2021.


COVID-19 Safety Considerations:

  • This opportunity is entirely outdoors and does not require contact with any other people. If contact with others does occur while volunteering, wearing a mask is recommended.
  • Training will be conducted entirely over email, phone, or video conference.


Interested volunteers should contact Emily Johnson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about how they can be involved. 

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Anoka Conservation District Blazing Trails

Clear lakes. Resilient rivers. Safe drinking water. Abundant wildlife. Great fisheries. Protected greenspace. Outdoor recreation opportunities. Minnesotans have come to expect these. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), such as Anoka Conservation District (ACD) are one of the primary entities relied upon to deliver these benefits across the state. Each SWCD is customized to meet the needs of their residents, whether in the agricultural south and west, the forests of the north and east, the lakes of the central region, the bluffs of the southeast, or the urban-scape of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, SWCDs are adapted to help landowners implement conservation. Not only does the approach change from one corner of Minnesota to the other according to the landscape, but it must also be adapted over time to changes in the landscape, and to evolving data, science and technology.

How well has ACD evolved to adapt to the tides of change? What has ACD done to advance the science, practice and policy of conservation? The following list represents activities where ACD took a lead role, was the first, and in some cases the only, special purpose local government entity to undertake them.


Subwatershed Retrofit Analysis – In the 2000s, ACD modified and refined the Center for Watershed Protection's protocol for subwatershed analysis and applied it to meet local needs. The analysis involves detailed field reconnaissance to identify project opportunities; modeling of potential projects to quantify benefits to the receiving water body; cost estimates for design, construction, and maintenance of the projects; and ranking of the projects by cost-effectiveness. This level of analysis has become the standard for identifying and ranking projects to meet water quality improvement goals. With multiple rounds of grant funding to complete analyses, there are currently 17 completed within Anoka County and dozens more across the metro area and in greater Minnesota. ACD staff have provided training on the process to many natural resource professionals across Minnesota.

Shoreland Photo Inventory for Lakes and Rivers – Many have used Google Streetview, where you can virtually transport yourself to any street and take a full circle look at your surroundings. For shoreland management, this ability would be exceptionally useful. Since the photos didn't exist, ACD purchased a 360 degree camera and set about gathering the photos and uploading them to Streetview. With over 500K views, the photos along the entirety of the Rum and Mississippi Rivers in Anoka County as well as many lakes have proven extremely useful, not only to ACD staff assisting shoreland owners, but to the general public as well. ACD was the first in Minnesota to do this.

Riverbank and Shoreland Erosion Analysis – Combining the data in shoreland photo inventories with soil type and topographic contours has allowed ACD staff to develop erosion rate estimates and rudimentary bank stabilization approach designations. This allows for rough project cost estimates and subsequent project ranking for cost-effectiveness. Having identified $14M of riverbank stabilization need on the Rum River alone, ACD has leveraged this knowledge into multiple project implementation grants. Similar analysis has been completed for several lakes and is underway for the Mississippi River. ACD was the first in Minnesota to complete this scope of bank erosion analysis.

Targeted Landowner Outreach – Detailed identification of water quality improvement project opportunities, whether shoreland and lakeshore erosion repair or stormwater treatment practices, along with their likely costs has enabled ACD to implement an extremely targeted approach to project implementation. Gone are the days of broadly advertising the availability of conservation cost share funds. ACD staff now go door-knocking to connect individually with the owners of properties where the most cost-effective project opportunities have been identified. By doing this, we ensure that we gain the most benefit with the limited funds that we have available to us. Property level opportunity identification and direct landowner outreach was spearheaded by ACD.

Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning – ACD led the charge to secure funding and develop a protocol to identify groundwater conservation opportunities on large public campuses in urban areas. This was completed in recognition of diminished groundwater supplies and quality in some areas and the need to develop and implement conservation measures. Campus level analysis completed across the metro area identified countless opportunities to reduce waste, many of which will pay for themselves in a matter of months with savings on water bills.

Conservation Easements – In a rapidly urbanizing county, with valued open space converting to residential and commercial uses, it was important to provide landowners interested in protecting their property with an alternative to development. In the 90's, ACD began directly accepting conservation easements, which perpetually protect lands from development while keeping the lands in private ownership. ACD now holds easements or fee title interest on six properties protecting 400 acres of high priority habitats, and is one of very few, if not the only SWCD to do so in Minnesota.

Rare Species Salvage – Many may be surprised to learn that the Twin Cities Metro Area is home to many rare plant and animal species. While geology and natural ecosystems play an important role, the primary reason for this is that urbanization of land constricts ever tighter around species fighting to maintain a foothold. Laws designed to protect rare species by keeping their locations unknown and making it illegal to harvest or possess them have had some unintended consequences. A prime example was that when a known population of rare plants was in the way of development and DNR issued a permit to destroy them, it was illegal to try to salvage them. After applying for grants to develop a salvage program in Minnesota and working with DNR staff to create a process whereby a salvage permit could be secured, ACD has undertaken the first two salvage projects in Minnesota and has translocated thousands of rare plants. The success of the translocations will be monitoring to further advance our understanding of these rare species.

Wetland Restoration Management – The Wetland Conservation Act of 1991 requires that draining or filling of certain wetlands be mitigated with and equal or greater amount of wetland restoration. To ensure the timely progress of projects, a market developed to create and sell wetland restoration credits to those who could not avoid wetland impacts. This process, knows as wetland banking has grown in sophistication over the years, and the expectations for the quality of restored wetland has dramatically increased. To assure long-term performance measures are met, state and federal regulatory entities started to require multi-decade maintenance plans with funding mechanisms. ACD was the first in Minnesota to step up to the plate to fulfill this need by entering into an agreement with the owner of a large wetland restoration bank to complete maintenance for 40+ years. The maintenance efforts will be funded by a substantial endowment.

Patented Rain Guardian Pretreatment Chambers – Rain gardens emerged on the conservation scene in the 2000s as a means to add effective stormwater treatment to highly development landscapes. Owners of rain gardens quickly came to realize that their gardens were capturing a ton of sediment and debris from the streets. Removing this material from within and around the mulch and plants was necessary to keep the water soaking into the ground between storms, but it was a lot of work. ACD staff recognized the need for an effective pretreatment device for rain gardens that homeowners could maintain. Standard sumps that required a vac-truck to empty just wouldn't do. So, ACD staff designed and patented Rain Guardian Pretreatment Chambers. Nationwide sales now support local conservation initiatives. ACD is the only SWCD nationwide to hold a patent.


Photo by Mark Bugnaski Photography

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