Rain Gardens Benefitting the Rum River

Six new rain gardens will be installed this summer in Anoka and Ramsey to benefit the Rum River. The first of them, on Washington Street, was completed the first week of June. Each curb-cut rain garden captures water from the neighborhood streets, driveways, roofs and other surfaces. Prior to these projects, the stormwater is discharged directly to the Rum River without treatment. Rain gardens are ideal in built-out neighborhoods where space is not available for stormwater ponds or other larger practices.

Funding for two rain gardens is a state Clean Water Fund grant and the Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization. Funding for the other four is the City of Anoka as part of their 2022 street renewal project. 

Bowler family members Amanda and Connor at the newly constructed rain garden in their front yard (not pictured: Daniel Bowler). The Bowlers will own and maintain the rain garden which treats stormwater from 2.2 acres of their neighborhood.
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Native Plantings Added to Streambank Stabilization Sites

Image sourced from MNDNR Stream Habitat Program

Last year, over 3,000 linear feet of cedar tree revetments were installed on the banks of the Rum River in Anoka County. While the cedar trees themselves will help capture sediment and prevent further erosion throughout the coming years, the re-establishment of native riparian vegetation is essential for promoting long-term bank resiliency. In May, ACD staff, with assistance from Anoka County Parks staff, planted a total of over 1,000 plants across six cedar revetment sites; species planted included sandbar willow, red osier dogwood, false indigo, and buttonbush (pictured below). 

When present, the deep roots of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and other vegetation act like a net, securing the bank's soils and preventing them from washing away. Streambank vegetation also provides essential habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species. For these reasons, ACD incorporates native plantings into all streambank stabilization projects.

Images sourced from Minnesota Wildflowers. © Peter M. Dziuk
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Isanti 5th Grade Conservation Day

On a cool and cloudy May morning, ACD participated in Isanti Conservation Day, an annual event designed to teach students about natural resource stewardship. Approximately 475 fifth graders were given a chance to get outside for a morning to learn about the natural world around them, and how to protect it, by rotating through stations scattered throughout Becklin Homestead Park. ACD collected a myriad of live aquatic invertebrates from local streams to give the students a hands-on way to learn about the unseen creatures that live in their favorite water bodies.

Each group examined trays containing wriggling nymphs of mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies, case-building caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, and more. They excitedly gathered around their tables to observe the activity in their trays and tallied how many kinds of invertebrates they were able to identify from a provided list. This led to discussions on what the diversity and types of creatures found in the water could tell them about river health. Looking at their lists, students learned that they could make inferences about water quality based on the pollution tolerance of the invertebrates that they found. Each session was wrapped up by sharing ideas on actions and practices that they could take to protect the health of their local rivers. The event was engaging for the fifth graders and provided them with new perspectives on how people can learn about water quality.  

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“Google River View”: 360° Photos Collected on the Rum and Mississippi

An actively eroding bank on the Rum River

Photos collected from near-shore zones on surface waters throughout the county serve as valuable tools for assessing lakeshore and riverbank conditions. Following a day in the boat with a 360° camera, these photos are uploaded to Google Street View, making them accessible to anyone. ACD then uses these them to compile erosion inventory reports, which describe erosion severity and stabilization project needs on high-priority waterbodies such as the Rum and Mississippi Rivers. Updated photos for these rivers were collected throughout the first week of May and are now available to view (alongside those captured in previous years) on Google Maps.  

While browsing through these photos, you are sure to see a beautiful river view. You may also notice banks currently experiencing noticeable erosion or, alternatively, portions that have recently been stabilized and planted with native vegetation.

A formerly failing riverbank at the Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka, stabilized and planted with native vegetation
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The Mount Simon-Hinckley Aquifer

The Mount Simon-Hinckley aquifer is one of the deepest and oldest aquifers in the state. It runs from Hinckley, MN to a large swath of south central Minnesota. The aquifer reaches depths of over 1,000 feet in some areas, containing water that is 30,000 years old. Industrial pumping of the aquifer has been banned in the seven county metro area for more than 30 years, and household use is only allowed when there is no other reasonable water alternative. Even with current restrictions, demand on the aquifer is likely to increase in the future due to projected climate conditions.

Many people think of aquifers as large underground lakes, but really an aquifer is more like sand soaked water where water trickles down through the porous space. This trickle of water may be extremely slow and it may take years for water to reach the aquifer. This leads to issues when aquifers are over-pumped and this slower recharge rate is not taken into account. There are already known areas in the Mount Simon Aquifer that are dry, caused by excessive pumping.

The Mount Simon Hinckley aquifer is an especially complicated system because of the diversity of the landscape it covers. These different landscapes have unique water flow as well as varying rock types which influence the water's ability to percolate down. Water within the same aquifer may differ in age by a thousand years depending on when the water reached the aquifer. Age of the water can be an indicator of water supply.

Learn more about how groundwater systems work by watching ACD's "Our Groundwater Connection" informational video.

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Biomonitoring with Area High Schools

Each spring and fall, ACD staff teaches area high school students about collecting macroinvertebrates to track water quality in Anoka County streams. This lesson is educational and fun for students, while providing ACD with data to track water quality over time through the streams' biota. Biological organisms that can be used to track the health of the environment they live in are called biological indicators (or bioindicators for short).

Macroinvertebrates, the larval forms of many common insects, are a great biological indicator for stream health in particular. They also live in lakes and wetlands. Many people don't realize that common insects like dragonflies, mayflies, black flies, and many others spend the majority of their lives as larval forms in the water. These larvae have varying tolerance levels to pollution, meaning some need very clean water to survive, while others can survive in either clean or polluted water. By tracking the populations of these organisms over time, we can gauge changes in water quality by assessing population shifts and known tolerance levels. This provides a valuable supplemental dataset to water quality samples collected periodically. Because these organisms spend months to years in the water, they give a more comprehensive long term look at water quality than water samples collected at random times can alone. 

Anoka High School students sorting through Rum River samples for macroinvertebrates, May 2022

For the past 24 years, ACD has partnered with numerous schools and groups in Anoka County to collect macroinvertebrates. We currently partner with the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations, the St. Francis American Legion, and the Rice Creek Watershed District to fund this monitoring with classes from four schools. Anoka High School and St. Francis High School classes monitor the Rum River near their schools, Totino-Grace High School classes monitor Rice Creek in Fridley, and the Forest Lake Area Learning Center monitors Clearwater Creek in Centerville. We also plan to take a new class from Blaine High School out in the fall of 2022 to monitor Coon Creek in Coon Rapids.

Over time, this program has taught thousands of Anoka County students about stream water quality, biological indicators, and work in the environmental sciences, all while getting them out of the classroom and into a stream. 

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RAIN GARDENS IN THE CITY OF ANOKA

Street reconstruction projects often provide opportunities to install new projects that can benefit water quality in nearby waterbodies. In the City of Anoka, four curb-cut rain gardens are currently being designed in conjunction with a street reconstruction project. The designs are being done by ACD in partnership with the City of Anoka and landowners. The rain gardens will capture stormwater runoff before it enters the storm sewer system, which discharges to the Rum River.

High priority properties with large contributing drainage areas were targeted. Those properties with landowners willing to transition some yard space out near the road from turf grass to garden area and agree to provide maintenance are being considered for rain garden installation. Funding for design is provided by a Metropolitan Conservation Districts Engineering and Technical Assistance Program, and installation funding will be provided by the City of Anoka.

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

Curb-cut rain garden example
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Rum Riverbank Stabilization Grants Available

A recent shoreline stabilization project on the Rum River

Grant funds are available to landowners for addressing shoreline erosion on the Rum River. If your shoreline is falling into the river, migrating back over time, or the bottom has washed out leaving an overhang, these funds can pay for a substantial portion of design and construction of a solution. Funding is available to address erosion issues of all sizes, with landowners typically paying 15-25% of the project cost. Shoreline restoration does more than just protect your property. It also protects the water resource you live on and enhances river habitat!

Those interested can schedule a site visit with Anoka Conservation District (ACD) staff to discuss options and see if your shoreline might fit into one of our various grant programs for financial assistance. Because the design and construction bidding can take months, starting in the spring is recommended. Contact Jared Wagner at ACD at 763-434-2030 x200 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rum Riverbank stabilization projects are a partnership of ACD, Anoka County Parks, and the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations (URRWMO, LRRWMO) with funding from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

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Rum River Watershed Partners Decide on Projects to Fund

The Rum River is a focus for new grant funds aimed at protecting water quality and improving habitat.

Local entities with a role in managing the Rum River watershed in Anoka County recently decided on a new slate of grant-funded projects. The group was charged with allocating $371,157 in state Watershed Based Implementation Funding grants. The dollars can be used for water quality projects in approved local plans. From an initial menu of 19 projects the group selected five:

  • $176,000 Projects identified in subwatershed studies. This includes urban stormwater and agricultural practices that have been identified, ranked by cost effectiveness, and which drain to one of these priority waterbodies: Rum River, Mississippi River, or Ford Brook.
  • $30,000 Trott Brook riparian corridor restoration study. This stream is impaired for low oxygen and poor aquatic life. The study is aimed at finding out why, and what might be done to address it. Trott Brook is primarily in the City of Ramsey.
  • $65,000  Septic system fix ups for low income homeowners. This will supplement an existing $25-40K per year that the state provides to the Anoka Conservation District. Demand exceeds funding. Properties near priority waterbodies are the focus.
  • $65,175 Critical shoreland area planting. Plantings will improve habitat, prevent erosion, and filter runoff near waterbodies.
  • $35,000 Wetland restorations.

The group selected the Anoka Conservation District to manage the projects. Required 10% grant matching dollars will come from landowners where projects are completed, and the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations. Work will begin in late 2022.

The group that worked collaboratively to select these projects included the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations, Anoka Conservation District, Anoka County, and a city representative from Andover.

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Save Money and Water in 2022

Spring is here. If you have an irrigation system for your yard, you're likely considering getting it up and running within the next month or two. System startup is the time when you're setting the watering duration and frequency for each zone in your yard. These settings often remain unchanged throughout the season, which typically results in overwatering. Overwatering wastes drinkable water, and assuming you don't have a private well, it also wastes money. 

This year, in addition to following city restrictions (e.g. odd/even watering schedules), try actively managing your irrigation controller. Active management consists of adjusting run times based on local conditions. For example, during periods with sufficient rainfall, watering duration and frequency can be reduced. During these times, you can simply turn your irrigation system off. In contrast, during periods of extreme heat and drought, supplemental watering may be necessary. Watch your yard for signs of drought before turning on your irrigation system, and rely on rainfall as much as possible. When you need to use your irrigation system, water your lawn one time or less per week with a good soaking to encourage deeper root growth, and schedule watering times in the morning to reduce evaporation associated with midday heat and wind.

An alternative to active management is a smart irrigation controller. Smart irrigation controllers use an internet connection to actively monitor local precipitation patterns and automatically adjust watering frequency and duration accordingly. Regardless of whether you choose active management or a smart irrigation controller, both are effective options for reducing water use and saving money.

Visit the University of Minnesota Extension's Lawn Care website for additional lawn management resources. 

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April Showers Bring Vernal Pools

Vernal pools are shallow wooded wetlands that fill with water in the spring and fall, then dry out in the summer. They may simply look like a large muddy puddle, but in reality these small depressions are filled with life and benefit local water quality.

  • Water Resource Benefits

By capturing water from snowmelt and heavy rains, vernal pools reduce the amount of runoff – and the contaminants it carries – reaching nearby surface waters and developed lands. This lowers flooding risks, improves water quality, and contributes to groundwater recharge as the trapped water slowly infiltrates through the soil.

  • Aquatic Invertebrates and Amphibians

Vernal pools rarely contain fish because their water levels fluctuate dramatically. This provides a safe haven for many invertebrate and amphibian species that would otherwise be heavily predated upon. Many depend on vernal pools during their egg and larval stages, leaving for nearby aquatic and terrestrial habitats once fully developed. Others spend their entire life within or near the wetland's depression.

  • Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals

Due to their abundance of amphibians and invertebrates, vernal pools supplement the food and water needs of wildlife such as waterfowl, songbirds, turtles, snakes, bats, and even bears. These benefits stem beyond the vernal pool itself when many of the invertebrates transition from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adults, serving as forage for insectivore species.

Explore and Protect

Vernal pools are highly sensitive to changes in vegetation cover, climate, and local topography. Because they are nearly invisible for much of the summer, they can be easily missed and destroyed if the land is modified; even an unintentional pass through these depressions during an ATV ride can strongly impact their function. You can help protect vernal pools on your property by marking their boundaries when visible in the spring and avoiding disturbance throughout the year. This is also a great time to explore the abundance of wildlife in and around these wetlands – an especially popular adventure for children.

Additional Resources

"Spring-to-Life Ponds": an Illustrated Learning Guide, produced by the MNDNR

MN Frog ID and Calls and Common Vernal Pool Invertebrates, produced by the MPCA and University of Wisconsin

Locating and Protecting Vernal Pools, produced by the MN Land Trust 

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Where will this snow go?

As spring snowmelt and rainwater rushes down your street and into the nearest stormwater drain, you may contemplate its ultimate fate and journey along the way.

In a natural landscape, much of this water would evaporate or soak into the ground – destined to support vegetation or join the groundwater below – while the remainder would move downward along the surface to nearby wetlands, lakes, and streams. In developed landscapes, impermeable surfaces such as roofs and pavement prevent water from soaking into the ground while manmade drainage networks rapidly channel it to local waterways.

Anoka County contains many interconnected lakes, wetlands, streams, and rivers that receive and transport stormwater. Unfortunately, many of these have experienced increased pollution, erosion, and flooding as a result. Management practices such as rain gardens, bio-swales, and storm ponds have been established throughout the county to intercept stormwater pipes and ditches, decreasing the pollutant load and total amount of runoff entering our surface waters.

Ultimately, all of Anoka County drains into the Mississippi River – either directly from the land near its banks, or indirectly through its many tributaries (such as Coon, Cedar, and Rice Creeks, and the Sunrise, Rum, and St. Croix Rivers). The path that stormwater takes to these major rivers is unique to each neighborhood, city, and watershed; the figures below show examples of stormwater drainage scenarios common in Anoka County. 

  ACD pursues a variety of projects that reduce the amount of untreated stormwater entering our waterways; learn more about these by viewing our interactive projects map here. You can also help reduce the amount of pollutants entering your neighborhood's stormwater by following the practices listed here.

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Simple Erosion Control Techniques Brings Success on the Rum River

Cedar tree revetments are a cost-effective bioengineering practice that can be used to stabilize actively eroding riverbanks. Excessive erosion along riverbanks threatens property, contributes sediment and nutrients to the water, and eliminates wildlife habitat. Installation of cedar revetments and live stakes, slows or stops the erosion and reduces the likelihood of a much larger and more expensive project in the future.

Eastern red cedars, though native to Minnesota, can be a nuisance species with a habit of taking over and dominating open grassy spaces. These cedar trees can be obtained at little to no cost through land clearing efforts and repurposed to protect streambanks and provide habitat benefit. Efforts made by ACD throughout the last 10-years have resulted in large-scale pollution reduction and extensive land protection along the Scenic Rum River. 

Since 2015, ACD has partnered with landowners, cities, parks departments, schools, and other community groups to install approximately 8,666 linear feet of cedar revetment. At the end of the 10-year project life, the current revetments in Anoka County will prevent in excess of 2,370 tons of sediment and 2,180 lbs of phosphorus from entering the Rum River, based on loading estimates.

Funding for these project was made possible through the Conservation Partners Legacy, Conservation Corps of Minnesota & Iowa crew labor grants funded from the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, and contributions from landowners. ACD provided all project administration, design and installation oversight.

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Rum Watershed Comp Plan Nearly Done!

Counties, soil & water conservation districts, watershed organizations and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have created a Rum River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan (CWMP). The plan contains mutual priorities for water quality improvements and other natural resources. State approval of the plan is anticipated for May.

The management plan was created because there are 15+ local water plans managing different parts of the same watershed, making it hard to reach watershed-level goals. The CWMP is a single umbrella plan prioritizing resources across the entire watershed. Activities in the plan include shoreland erosion stabilization, agricultural water quality projects, stormwater treatment, septic system fix ups for low income owners, forestry practices, and more.

Approximately $1M in State Watershed Based Implementation Funds (WBIF) grants are provided every two years to implement the plan. The partnership is forming a joint powers board to direct plan implementation and grant funds use.

The full plan is available at https://www.millelacsswcd.org/rum-river-one-watershed-one-plan/.For more information contact Jamie Schurbon (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 763-434-2030 ext. 210). 

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LAKE GEORGE SHORELINE STABILIZATION PROJECTS IN 2022

Seven lakeshore stabilization project designs are underway for properties on Lake George. ACD staff conducted targeted mailings based on a previously completed erosion inventory and site visits were then conducted at properties with interested landowners. Potential project sites were prioritized by water quality improvement potential, and with the funding available, seven sites were chosen to be developed. Construction of these projects is anticipated for summer, 2022.

Lakeshore stabilization techniques include coir logs, native vegetation buffers, minor regrading of ice heaves, and minimal riprap. The picture to the right shows an eroding shoreline with a short bank height that can be stabilized using a coir log and native vegetation. Stabilization of the lakeshores will reduce pollutant loading to Lake George and thereby provide water quality benefits. The native plant buffer areas will also provide habitat benefits.

Funding is provided by a Rum River Watershed Based Implementation Funding grant and landowner contributions. Watch for additional updates as the projects progress through final design and construction. 

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It’s time to start native seeds for your pollinator garden!

There is so much magic and joy in starting wildflowers from seeds. This is a good time to start that process for many native plants so that they are ready in the spring. Many native plants' seed stays dormant until there are good conditions in the wild. As a gardener, you can create these conditions to break dormancy for seed germination. Many native seeds need cold moist stratification to germinate. This can be done outdoors if seed is planted in the fall and overwintered. If you want to start them indoors in containers then pre-treatment stratification is needed. Stratify by placing seeds in a damp paper towel, coffee filter, or sand and into a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator (33-40 °F). Native plant's seeds range from needing 10 to 120 days of cold stratification. Once seeds have been stratified for the number of recommended days, plant seeds in a soil medium. Keep soil moist until seeds sprout and send up their first leaves. Water as needed and allow the soil to begin to dry out between watering. The magic continues as plants continue to grow!

Learn more about individual native plant seed pre-treatment and germination strategies in the Prairie Moon Nursery 2022 Cultural Guide and Germination Guide and the Tallgrass Prairie Center's Native Seed Production Manual.

If you aren't ready to start a new seed starting hobby, this is also a good time to start designing and planning a pollinator garden. Many local plant vendors have their plant catalogues ready for you to view. Be sure that plants you purchase are free of neonicotinoids, which are very toxic to pollinators.

See BWSR's Lawns to Legumes page for garden design templates and list of local native plant vendors. 

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Grants available for septic system fix-ups!

Grants are available to homeowners to fix struggling, non-compliant septic systems. Septic systems are the underground tank and drain field that treat wastewater from homes where city sewer and water is not available. Grants are available to households meeting low income criteria. Loans are available to most applicants.

A non-compliant septic system can be a problem for owners, or be an obstacle to selling the property. Failure can be dramatic, such as sewage back up. Or a septic system can be deemed non-compliant because it does not have enough vertical separation from the water table. Grants are awarded because failing septic systems threaten groundwater and nearby lakes and streams.

For more information, visit www.AnokaSWCD.org/financial-technical-assistance.html or contact Kris Larson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 763-434-2030 ext. 110). 

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2021 ACD TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SUMMARY

ACD staff provide technical assistance for a wide variety of projects each year. Many of the requests for assistance come directly from landowners interested in improving natural resources or addressing concerns on their properties. Technical assistance is also provided for projects in collaboration with county, city, and watershed entity partners. The table to the right summarizes 2021 technical assistance provided by ACD staff.

Assistance begins with a site consultation. Consultations typically include a conversation with the landowner, desktop review of the site using GIS mapping software and available data sets, and a site visit to discuss options. If the landowner is interested in pursuing a project, ACD can provide design and installation oversight services. Maintenance guidance is also provided for previously installed projects.

Additional information about active projects and those previously completed is available on ACD's project tracking map.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=d1e76c3d808743c1b149bde24c990894 

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HydroClim Minnesota

"HydroClim Minnesota" is a new electronic newsletter put out monthly by MNDNR Climatologist Pete Boulay. ACD has partnered with Pete for years to manage a network of precipitation volunteers throughout Anoka County.

"HydroClim Minnesota" summarizes weather conditions and other weather events occurring throughout the state and the resulting impact on water resources. By subscribing to the newsletter you can learn exciting facts such as, a storm event occurring on December 15, 2021 was not only the warmest day ever recorded in the month of December but it also involved Minnesota's first documented tornado for the month of December!

To learn more fun facts about weather in your state visit https://mndnr.gov/hydroclim. 

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Assistance for Shoreline Erosion

ACD has a number of grant opportunities available for addressing shoreline erosion along both streams and lakes in Anoka County. If you have noticed your lakeshore migrating back on you over time, or perhaps once had a low walkable area along your river frontage that is now gone leaving only a steep drop-off, ACD may be able to help you design and even fund a project to protect your property.

The first step is a site visit to your property by ACD staff. Now is a great time to reach out to ACD to plan a site visit in the spring. We will assess your erosion problems, give you advice on how to address them, and see if your shoreline might fit into one of our various grant programs for financial assistance. Shoreline restoration does far more than just protect your property. It also protects the water resource you live on, and also enhances habitat for all of the wildlife that utilizes that resource! 

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Start Thinking Spring Conservation!

Current subzero temperatures can make warmer months seem far away, but winter is a great time to begin planning for spring and summer conservation projects at your home. Whether you want to create an oasis for pollinators and other native wildlife or install features that improve local water quality, there are many great informational resources to help you get started.

Create a native vegetation planting plan and control invasive species

Establishing areas of diverse native vegetation and managing invasive plant species produces multiple environmental benefits, including the provision of food and habitat resources for native wildlife and the improvement of local soil and water health, particularly for areas adjacent to rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Sourcing native plants and landscaping services from local experts is the best way to ensure your efforts maximize ecological benefits in your area. 

 Address lawn care needs sustainably

The ways in which we mow, irrigate, and chemically treat our yards can lead to unintended impacts in nearby aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. This year, consider developing a lawn care regime that strategically targets nutrient and pesticide needs and reduces the need for irrigation.

Participate in community surveys and attend educational events

Winter is a great time to explore environmental topics that pique your interest and inspire you to become involved in backyard conservation efforts. Many of Minnesota's environmental and conservation organizations provide free or low-cost educational opportunities such as webinars and workshops. You can also become involved in natural resource surveys such as those for wildlife, weather, and water quality, which greatly improve our understanding of conservation needs across the state. 

Financial and Technical Assistance

Because environmental benefits produced through conservation practices typically extend beyond the bounds of your property, conservation projects such as lakeshore restorations, riverbank stabilizations, and best management practices for urban or agricultural stormwater runoff may qualify for financial or technical assistance. Seeking out and applying for these opportunities early will help you get a strong head start on spring and summer projects.

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$1,008,820 Grant for Rum Riverbank Stabilization at Woodbury House!

The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) is collaborating with the City of Anoka to stabilize 300+ linear feet of eroding Rum Riverbank adjacent to the historic Woodbury House site. The ACD recently prepared a state Clean Water Fund grant application on behalf of the city, and the city is being awarded a $1,008,820 grant. It promises to be a high profile and highly beneficial project.

This site is important for water quality and cultural reasons. It is on the Rum River and less than 1/2 mile upstream of the confluence with the Mississippi River. Reduction of sediment and nutrients in both these rivers is a regional priority. The site is also immediately upstream of Twin Cities drinking water intakes, so there are drinking water benefits. The Woodbury House itself is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in 1857 and is currently occupied by the Mad Hatter Restaurant and Tea House. Work will take place on city-owned lands.

Currently, the riverbank has major failures extending up the 30+ foot tall bluff that are increasing in extent. Erosion affects river water quality, fish habitat, and threatens structures at the top of the bluff. 

The Clean Water Fund is from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed by voters in 2008.  

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RAIN GARDENS FOR RICE CREEK - UPDATE

Six rain gardens will be constructed on residential properties in a City of Fridley neighborhood adjacent to Rice Creek in 2022. The properties were identified as priority rain garden locations in the Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis (SRA) completed by Anoka Conservation District in partnership with RCWD.

The priority rain garden locations identified in the SRA were used to target landowners for rain garden installation in conjunction with a mill and overlay project in the same neighborhood. Based on landowner interest, ACD provided site assessments and designs, which resulted in the six rain gardens to be installed.

Stormwater runoff that flows by each of the rain garden locations is currently piped directly to Rice Creek. Curb-cut rain gardens at these locations will provide reductions in runoff volume, total suspended solids, and total phosphorus reaching Rice Creek, Locke Lake, and ultimately the Mississippi River. Cumulatively, the contributing drainage area to the six proposed rain garden locations is nearly five acres and comprised of medium-density residential land use.

Because this area of the watershed is fully developed, large regional options for treatment are limited. The six proposed rain garden locations are optimally positioned because they have large contributing drainage areas for the neighborhood, provide sufficient space for appropriately sized rain gardens, have minimal utility conflicts, and either have appropriate underlying soils for infiltration or are adjacent to a storm drain for filtration.

ACD staff worked with landowners of the six properties to size rain gardens appropriately for each contributing drainage area and position the rain gardens in approved locations. Designs accounted for existing landscaping, yard slope, underlying soils and utilities, and landowner requests. Planting plans were also developed in collaboration with landowners to incorporate requested native species.

The project will be funded through a combination of the Rice Creek Watershed District's Water Quality Grant Program and the City of Fridley. The landowners will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the rain gardens.

Watch for additional updates as the rain gardens are installed in 2022. To see other rain gardens already installed throughout Anoka County, please see the virtual project tour on ACD's website. 

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Protect Minnesota’s waters – Use salt wisely

A 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway.

http://www.cleanwatermn.org/wp-content/uploads/Salt-Tipcard-v3.pdf

Here is a repost of Washington County's Hold the Salt you tube video: https://youtu.be/Io-zTw5Yb6g


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Mississippi River Erosion Inventory Highlights Bank Stabilization Needs, Gives Project Opportunities

The Mississippi River fulfills the water resource needs of millions of people and provides hydrological and habitat benefits of national significance. It is a powerful waterbody that has shaped the U.S. landscape for millions of years. Erosion is a naturally occurring process in flowing water systems such as the Mississippi River, but it can become exacerbated with increases in extreme weather events and in developed landscapes where stormwater drainage networks contribute to increased surface water volumes. Bank erosion can threaten adjacent urban and agricultural infrastructure and contributes to sediment and nutrient loading that impacts local water quality. Thus, riverbank stabilization practices that minimize erosion serve as mechanisms to combat these environmental challenges.

Using 360° photos captured from a watercraft on the Mississippi River, ACD identified the location and severity of eroded banks spanning from Coon Rapids to Fridley. Altogether, nearly 50 separate stretches of moderately to severely eroded banks were identified, collectively contributing to an estimated 8,517 tons of sediment inputs to the river each year. These stretches were present along both private and public properties ranging from dense residential areas to expansive county parks. A recommended stabilization approach and corresponding project cost estimate was applied to each eroded bank, thus providing cost: benefit scenarios for each potential stabilization project and facilitating the strategic pursuit of those which maximize environmental benefits.

These findings are detailed in a comprehensive report located here, which also includes further details on ACD's erosion inventory methodology, profile pages for each potential stabilization project, and information on a variety of riverbank stewardship and stabilization approaches. To view examples of completed stabilization projects identified through previous erosion inventories, view our interactive projects map here. For more information please contact Breanna Keith, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.763-434-2030 x160

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Removed from Minnesota Impaired Waters List: West Branch Sunrise River!

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently released their update of the State's impaired waters list, which occurs every two years. Among the success stories was the West Branch of the Sunrise River in Anoka County and Chisago County. This stretch of river has officially been removed from the impaired waters list, thanks in large part to efforts of the Anoka Conservation District!

The portion of the river from Martin Lake to Pool 1 was listed as impaired for high pH. High pH was due to high nutrients and algae in Martin Lake just upstream. ACD's work Martin and Typo Lakes has led to pH returning to acceptable levels. 

Work at the upstream lakes has been ongoing for more than 10 years. It has included rain gardens, stormwater ponds, and carp management. Both Martin and Typo Lakes have improving water quality trends, and Martin Lake has on average met state water quality standards for nutrients the last five years. With additional upcoming work, ACD hopes that Martin Lake is delisted in 2023. Partners in that work have included the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization, Linwood Township, the Martin Lakers Association, and others.

Other Anoka County waterbodies being delisted include Howard Lake and the Mississippi River from the northwest city limits of Anoka to the Rum River. Howard Lake was impaired for excessive nutrients, and the Rice Creek Watershed District has led implementation of projects to improve it. The section of the Mississippi River was impaired for fecal coliform bacteria. There, improvements may be due to a variety of work by many who care about the Mississippi, and the City of Anoka's efforts to treat stormwater locally. For more information contact Jamie Schurbon, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 763-434-2030 x210

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Rum Riverbank Stabilization in Oak Grove

A project stabilizing 400 linear feet of severely eroding Rum Riverbank is complete in Oak Grove! Construction was completed in November which included;

  • Installation of 850 tons of rock riprap
  • Grading the bank to a more stable slope
  • Blanketing and seeding with a native seed mix
  • Planting native willows and dogwood trees
  • Blanketing the soil with straw to protect it until the vegetation grows

The project was funded by an Outdoor Heritage Fund grant through the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, as well as match dollars from the landowner and Anoka County. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of 4 funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. This project will prevent approximately 140 tons of sediment per year from washing into the river, and will enhance wildlife habitat along 400 feet of riverbank that had been a non-traversable eroding face prior.

Stay tuned for more photo updates as the project greens up this coming spring! 

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RICE CREEK BANK STABILIZATION PROJECT IN THE CITY OF FRIDLEY

The Brua property located on Rice Creek in Fridley had approximately 85 linear feet of streambank with active erosion. Sediment and nutrients from the eroding bank directly entered Rice Creek. While the erosion severity was classified as moderate, the landowners observed the bank receding over the last several years, particularly during periods of extended high water. By being proactive and addressing the erosion at an early stage, they can minimize the overall cost of the project as well as the sediment and nutrient loading to Rice Creek.

The stabilization solution used a minimal amount of riprap and native plantings to stabilize the eroding face. The shady conditions of the site, frequent water level fluctuation, and flowing water required a hard armoring solution along the bottom portions of the slope. Native species well adapted to frequent water level fluctuations and shady conditions were planted above the riprap to soften its appearance and provide a vegetated buffer with habitat value (see picture to right).

Stabilization of the shoreline will provide reductions in the total suspended solids (2,838 pounds per year reduction) and total phosphorus (1.21 pounds per year reduction) reaching Rice Creek. In addition to the water quality benefits to Rice Creek, downstream waterbodies (Locke Lake and the Mississippi River) will also benefit.

The project was funded through a combination of the Rice Creek Watershed District's Water Quality Grant Program and the landowner. For more information please contact Mitch Haustein, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 763-434-2030 x150

Stabilized bank on Rice Creek includes riprap at the bottom of the slope and native seed, shrub stakes, and erosion control blanket at the top of the slope.
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Minnesota’s Buffer Law

Minnesota's Buffer Law was enacted to help keep Minnesota's water clean. Buffers are also known as a riparian filter strip adjacent to a stream, river, lake, or wetland. These buffers filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment. Studies completed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency show that buffers are critical to protecting and restoring water quality, natural stream functions, and aquatic habitat and life.

Buffers are required along public waterways and ditches. Public waterways include lakes, rivers, and streams. This type of waterway requires a 50-foot average buffer. Buffers of 16.5 feet are required along public ditches. The original buffer law was signed into law in 2015, and after several modifications, the deadline for implementation for public waterways was 2017 and 2018 for public ditches.

Buffers are required to be vegetated with perennials. This includes hay and forage crops such as alfalfa and clover, woody vegetation, perennial grains that can be harvested later, and prairie vegetation. This vegetation is key to helping keep Minnesota's water clean. Since 2017, soil and water conservation districts, including ACD, have worked hard to help bring all applicable parcels into compliance. The map below shows this hard work and that most of Minnesota are 94% to 100% compliant. For more information please contact Mollie Annen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 763-434-2030 x180

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Update - Riverbank Stabilization Project in Mississippi River Community Park, Anoka

The riverbank stabilization project in Mississippi River Community Park is one step closer to completion. Native trees (container size) have been planted along the slope above the riprap. Upland species (e.g. Bur Oak) were planted higher on the slope and floodplain species (e.g. Swamp White Oak) were planted lower on the slope.

Remaining project elements include the planting of dormant live stakes near the top of the riprap in a zone that will see inundation during high water conditions, and the planting of bare root shrubs and trees along the slope above the riprap. Similar to the container size trees, both upland and floodplain bare root species will be planted when they become available. Roots associated with the vegetation will stabilize the bank above the riprap.

Tree clearing, bank reshaping, riprap installation, seeding, and erosion control blanket installation were all previously completed. The project stabilized approximately 1,500 linear feet of severely eroding riverbank.

The project is funded by a Clean Water Fund grant, a Watershed Based Funding grant, and match from the City of Anoka.
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$5.5M for Conservation Easements Along the Rum River

The Rum River watershed is near the top of State efforts for ecological protection, with implementation being done by soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) including ACD. In 2021 the Minnesota legislature approved $2.5M for Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) easements, on top of $3M that was allocated 2 years ago. In the most recent round, the Rum was one of just four watersheds statewide to be targeted.

With a RIM easement, the land remains privately owned. The easement prohibits future development of the land. The owner is paid approximately 60% of the assessed value. The program includes some funds for habitat improvements.

Landowner interest has been strong. The first $3M of easement funding was committed to just over 3,000 acres in about a year, leaving over 1,100 acres on a waiting list. The second round of funding picks up where the last left off, aiming to protect at least 1,750 acres.

Soil and water conservation districts and partners like The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever promote the RIM easement program to the most ecologically valuable lands. Within the Rum River watershed, they have chosen to focus on lands adjacent to the river. This ensures that in addition to protecting the riparian corridor habitat there are also water quality benefits. They use a scoring system that incorporates each property's ecological quality and proximity to other protected habitat.

Within Anoka County there have been two landowners apply for RIM easements on their land. They total 149 acres. A third landowner, which happens to be adjacent to the other two, is also considering applying. More outreach to other landowners is in the works.

Landowners interested in a conservation easement should contact Carrie Taylor at 763-434-2030 ext 190 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Lands must be adjacent to the Rum River or major tributary. Parcels greater than 20 acres get the strongest consideration.

Funding for the Rum River watershed RIM easements is from the Outdoor Heritage Fund from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
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Rum Riverbank Stabilization Project in Oak Grove

A project stabilizing 400 linear feet of severely eroding Rum Riverbank is underway in Oak Grove. Tree clearing and some excavation have taken place to date. Installation of toe protection in the form of angular riprap is being installed this week.

The next steps include finishing the installation of 850 tons of rock riprap, grading of the bank to a more stable slope, blanketing and seeding with a native seed mix, and the planting of native willows and dogwood trees.

The project is funded by an Outdoor Heritage Fund grant through the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, as well as match dollars from the property owner. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. This project will prevent approximately 140 tons of sediment per year from washing into the river, and will enhance wildlife habitat along 400 feet of riverbank that had been a non-traversable eroding face prior.

Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses!

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Soil Health Practices – Effects on Farm Profitability

Practices to improve soil health, such as no-till and cover crops have been touted for their environmental benefits. But from a business perspective, questions about their impact on profitability have dogged adoption. A new survey by the Soil Health Institute (SHI), with funding from Cargill, found these practices are good for business.

See image from the Soil Health Institute below for the Key Findings of the survey.

Given the current adoption rates of no-till (37%) and cover crops (5%) in the U.S., the study indicates that many other farmers may improve their profitability by adopting soil health management systems. Soil and Water Conservation Districts throughout Minnesota promote soil health programs. In some cases, financial assistance is available locally or through the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement them.

The full SHI report is available online: www.soilhealthinstitute.org 

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Update - Riverbank Stabilization Project Construction in Mississippi River Community Park, Anoka

The riverbank stabilization project in Mississippi River Community Park is underway. Tree clearing, bank reshaping, and riprap installation have been the primary focus at this stage in the construction process.

Future work will include native seeding, erosion control blanket installation, and planting of native shrubs and trees.

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.

Read additional updates on our blog here and here.


UPDATE - October 2021

The riverbank stabilization project in Mississippi River Community Park is nearly complete. Tree clearing, bank reshaping, riprap installation, seeding, and erosion control blanket installation have all been completed. Planting of supplemental bare root shrubs, trees, and dormant live stakes will be completed by the end of November. The project stabilized approximately 1,500 linear feet of severely eroding riverbank.

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Biomonitoring with High School Students

Every spring and fall, staff members from Anoka Conservation District lead several high school classes through a hands on biomonitoring session. These students don waiters, grab a D-net, and wade into the shallow waters of a particular stream or river in Anoka County. They use these nets to scrape rocks, down trees, or vegetation in hopes of finding macroinvertebrates, which are collected. During the classroom potion of this lesson, the students identify and label these macroinvertebrates species. ACD then reevaluates and counts all specimen. The same stream and river locations are sampled almost every year, allowing ACD to monitor any long-term trends in the species found.

Biomonitoring is a useful tool because macroinvertebrates live on the bottom of rivers and streams. During their aquatic life cycle, which can be multiple years, they cope with chemical, physical, and biological influences in their habitat. They are less mobile than fish, making them less able to avoid the effects of these pollutants and changes to aquatic habitats. Macroinvertebrates also have a wide range of pollutant tolerances amongst the various species. The numbers and types of organisms present in a water body reflect the quality of their surroundings. Inventorying the makeup of aquatic communities can help determine if changes in the environment are causing effects such as the loss of sensitive groups of organisms. Macroinvertebrates are also practical and easy to sample, making them perfect for a high school science class. 

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Pet Micro-chipping Technology In Carp!

Owners of loved and valuable pets sometimes have a microchip implanted to help recover them if they are lost or stolen. The same technology is now being used to help the Anoka Conservation District remove destructive carp from lakes.

We recently added microchip PIT tags to 187 carp in Typo Lake (Linwood Township). Those carp are now telling us when and proportionately how many carp are visiting baiting stations in the lake. An underwater sensor detects the carp when they are near the bait. A floating, solar-powered control unit uploads that data to the internet. This allows us to spring the nets around the bait at times that are likely to catch the most carp.

Graph: Number of PIT tagged carp visiting baited net stations over 7 days. Note the increase over time and the peak just after midnight. 

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I Used to Mow There … and Now it’s Gone

"See that tree. I used to mow two passes between that tree and the shoreline. Now the tree is in the water." It's a common observation we hear from shoreland landowners. The erosion itself is slow enough that we can't see it immediately. But over time it becomes clear that erosion was happening all along. One measure of land lost is recalling how we used to use an area.

It's striking that the most common measure of erosion is "where we used to mow." Perhaps, it's part of the cause. As a general rule, many grasses have roots as deep as the plant is tall. That means mowed turf has 1-2" deep roots that afford little erosion protection.

As a simple way to slow shoreline erosion, consider an unmowed buffer at the water's edge. It's understood that this may not be feasible in dock, beach, or other active use areas. But in other areas, just let it grow or intentionally plant it with desirable native vegetation. ACD staff can help. Just give us a call.

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Linwood Lakers Trying Out Native Shoreline Plants

"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 this year's Linwood Lake Improvement Association annual picnic, the Anoka Conservation District distributed nearly 100 native shoreline plants to be planted all around the lake at around 20 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 Prairie Restorations, Inc who provided the giveaway plants. ACD offers technical help and grants for those wanting to do a larger shore stabilization or buffer project. 

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Riverbank Stabilization Project Construction to Begin in Mississippi River Community Park

The riverbank stabilization project in Mississippi River Community Park will begin this month. The current schedule forecasts project completion in early October and includes the general process outlined below.

  • Clearing and grubbing – Existing vegetation will be removed within areas that will be regraded to achieve a stable slope.
  • Erosion control – Protections will be put in place to prevent exposed soil from leaving the site during construction.
  • Excavation and riprap placement – This is the primary step in the stabilization process. The steep slopes will be regraded, and riprap will be placed at the bottom of the slope within the zone of frequent water level fluctuation.
  • Planting – The regraded slope above the riprap will be stabilized with native vegetation. Seed mixes, plant plugs, shrubs, and trees will all be planted.

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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Chloride Trends in the Rum River Watershed

The Metropolitan Council (MCES) put out a report on the trends of chloride in the Rum River Watershed. This report was based on data collected from 2001 to 2019 by both the MCES and Anoka Conservation District. Chloride concentrations have been rapidly rising in many waterbodies, including shallow aquifers, throughout Minnesota. This is a worrying trend because chloride is a permanent water pollutant that is toxic to fish, aquatic bugs, and amphibians. The main sources of chloride pollution in Minnesota comes from livestock excreta, household water softening, synthetic fertilizer, and de-icing salt. Chloride concentrations can be greatly affected by other factors like season, precipitation, and streamflow. During the winter months, concentrations rise with the use of approximately 400,000 tons of de-icing salt on Twin Cities' roads. Precipitation and streamflow also affect the concentration by dilution during high flow and precipitation years and concentration during low flow and precipitation years.

Luckily, the MCES found that concentrations of chloride are generally low in the Rum River. Chloride was increasing from 2001 to 2012 but has remained stable since 2012. Although this is a good sign, climate change is creating a wetter, warmer climate in Minnesota. This will greatly affect the freeze-thaw cycle and will have an unpredictable affect on pollution dynamics. Understanding how pollutants like chloride can affect Minnesota's waterways is an important step in keeping our waterways clean.
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Coon Lake Lakeshore Restoration – One Year Later

One year ago, ACD partnered with the Sunrise River WMO and a homeowner on Coon Lake to restore a damaged and degraded shoreline to improve water quality and lakeshore habitat, as well as promote native plant diversity and pollinator habitat. The shoreline was degraded by waves and ice, mowing of turf grass to the water's edge, and further damaged by tunneling muskrats. To correct these issues, the shoreline was regraded to a more gentle approach to the water, a muskrat deterrent was buried along the shoreline, and turf grass was replaced with native plants ranging from aquatic-emergent at the water's edge, to upland plants further up the bank.

The project was installed in July of 2020, and despite the recent drought, has flourished after one year of growth. Creating a diverse, native lakeshore can often be as simple as no longer mowing turf grass near the water's edge and planting native shoreline plants to create a more natural buffer area. The Anoka Conservation District can offer technical assistance to any landowner interested in creating a more beneficial shoreline, and oftentimes can bring financial assistance to a project as well. 

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Restoring Hydrology and Wetland Habitat at Cedar Creek Conservation Area

The Anoka Conservation District, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Anoka County Parks are collaborating to restore hydrology and enhance five acres of wetland and one acre of upland prairie at Anoka County Park's Cedar Creek Conservation Area. Two wetland basins were enhanced by installing sheet piling ditch plugs and adding fill material in a private ditch that was draining the wetlands. A berm to prevent water from entering the ditch was constructed to enhance a third wetland basin. Non-native reed canary grass biomass and root sod was scraped from these wetland basins and used to fill the ditch. Construction is complete and vegetation management will occur on these three basins and two additional basins in the area for the next five years using funds from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The goal is to convert these once drained wetlands that were dominated by reed canary grass to wetlands with native vegetation and greater water holding capacity. This will provide benefits to water quality and improve wildlife habitat.

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Long Term Success of Cedar Tree Revetment Projects in Anoka County

Cedar tree revetments are a cost-effective bioengineering practice that can be used to stabilize actively eroding riverbanks. This spring, staff from the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) visited several cedar revetment projects that ACD had installed between 2002 and 2016. The two staff from the USACE had been traveling to several states to review what is working and what is not working when it comes to cedar revetment projects. They are hoping to use the information to publish technical notes and/or peer reviewed literature.

They were very impressed by the effectiveness of ACD's revetments, even the very old ones. They attribute this effectiveness to the removal of the back branches. They had not seen this technique in any other state they had visited. Most cedar revetment failures studied, seemed to come from the trees moving/floating during high water and scour behind the trees causing more erosion. They also saw many trees that snapped in half, which was potentially from the stress of so much movement. They are planning to highlight the technique of removing the back branches in any published literature.

Almost all of ACD's revetments visited were still in place. Most had stopped, or greatly decreased erosion at the toe but did not fill in with sediment. The most common failure was broken wire that held the tree to the duckbill anchor. In most of these cases, the trees did not move a lot from where they were originally placed. The breakage seemed to be caused by rust.

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Rum River Cedar Tree Revetments

The Anoka Conservation District has been working hard in partnership with Conservation Corp of MN and the Anoka County Parks Department to implement Cedar Revetments along the Rum River. So far nearly 1,500 linear feet along the Rum has been protected using the bio-engineered practice. These practices have been installed on private lands as well as property managed by Anoka County Parks. This type of practice is effective at protecting the bank from erosion while also enhancing shoreline habitat for wildlife. Cedar revetments are also much less expensive compared to other stabilization techniques. Through a state grant awarded to Anoka County Parks, there is currently funding available to cover 90% of the total project cost.

If you own property on the Rum River and are interested in protecting your shoreline, please contact Kris Larson for more information. 763-434-2030 x110, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Rain Gardens for Rice Creek

Street reconstruction projects often provide opportunities to install new projects that can benefit water quality in nearby waterbodies. In the City of Fridley, up to six curb-cut rain gardens are currently being designed in conjunction with a street reconstruction project. The designs are being done by ACD in partnership with the City of Fridley, the Rice Creek Watershed District, and landowners. The rain gardens will capture stormwater runoff before it enters the storm sewer system, which discharges to Rice Creek.

Depending on the underlying soils at each site, rain gardens with sandy soils will use infiltration (i.e. the water will soak into the ground) while those with finer soils (e.g. silty soils) will filter the runoff before discharging the cleaner water to the storm sewer system. In both cases, Rice Creek will benefit from reduced loading of sediment and nutrients.

High priority properties with large contributing drainage areas were targeted. Those properties with landowners willing to transition some yard space out near the road from turf grass to garden area and agree to provide maintenance are being considered for rain garden installation. Funding will be provided by the City of Fridley and the Rice Creek Watershed District.

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

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New Grants Secured in Northeast Anoka County

This spring, long time Martin Lake residents Wally and Nancy Olson challenged the other members of their lake associations: donate $3,000 for lake water quality improvement and we'll match it. In just a few weeks $3,600 in donations poured in, including 21 households that donated $100 or more. Total funds raised was $6,600. This followed a similar challenge and response in 2020.

The funds will go into the lake association's Water Quality Fund. In the past, this money has been used for a variety of projects including rain gardens, stormwater ponds, carp management, and aquatic invasive species prevention. In nearly every case the lake association and its partners have used the funds as match for grants, multiplying their cash by 4x to 10x.

Some of the money raised by the Martin Lakers is being used as matching funds toward a new grant secured from the Anoka County Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program for radio tagging carp. Linwood, Typo, and Martin Lake are each receiving $3,000 for carp management from the AIS Prevention Program. The lakes are part of a chain of lakes with active carp management led by the Anoka Conservation District. Carp are being removed where they are abundant, and harmful to water quality and habitat.

Along with matching funds from the Martin Lakers, the grants were supported by $750 in matching funds from the Linwood Lake Improvement Association and Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization.

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Linwood Elementary School Rain and Pollinator Garden

Turning a problem into a solution with the Linwood Elementary School rain and pollinator garden.

Construction and expansion took place recently at Linwood Elementary School resulting in a larger roof capturing and sending more rain water to an area in front of the school. This small area is surrounded by the building on two sides, the front sidewalk, and the sidewalk to the main entrance. The additional water produced a large deep puddle for several days and a mud pit after water finally infiltrated. There was a need to improve that area for safety and aesthetics especially since it is in front of the school entrance. The solution: a rain and pollinator garden.

The depressed basin provides a micro example of different hydrologic zones and plant communities ranging from upland plants on the perimeter of the area and wetland plants down in the basin. Parent volunteer, Jennifer Braido took the lead to help facilitate and three 4th grade classes learned about rain gardens so they could create a design for the rain and pollinator garden. ACD staff and Jennifer taught 4th graders about hydrologic zones, plant communities, wetland indicator status, plant adaptations including aerenchyma tissue in wetland plant roots and plant's seasonal bloom times. With all this information, the classes choose their favorite plants for different zones of the garden and did some math to determine how many plants they needed. Another parent volunteer, Robb Johnson, and ACD staff worked to increase water storage capacity by installing a French drain which has reduced the time of standing water after a large rainfall. Finally, the 4th graders were out planting their rain-pollinator garden with the upland species along the edges and the wetland species down in the basin. While they were planting, a monarch butterfly fluttered around appreciating this new habitat. An educational sign is posted to highlight the benefits of rain and pollinator gardens to all that pass by the main entrance to Linwood Elementary School.

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Lower Rice Creek Stormwater Retrofit Analysis

The Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) contracted with ACD to complete a stormwater retrofit analysis for the purpose of identifying and ranking water quality improvement projects throughout select drainage areas to Lower Rice Creek in Anoka County. The report is in final review by the Technical Advisory Committee, and the final report will be completed by July 1st.

A total of 145 projects were identified throughout the 1,115-acre study area and generally consisted of rain gardens, underground sediment collection chambers, and stormwater pond installations or modifications. Potential projects were ranked in order of cost-effectiveness. The report provides a tool for natural resource managers when considering the implementation of projects to improve water quality in Lower Rice Creek.

The project is funded by RCWD and a Metropolitan Conservation Districts Clean Water Fund Accelerated Implementation grant.

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Lake Water Levels

The Department of Natural Resources collaborates with Anoka Conservation District to collect lake level data from many lakes across the county. This partnership allows ACD to work directly with county residents who volunteer for the lake level program. These volunteers record the lake level from a staff gauge placed in the lake (typically close to their property) weekly. These data are then reported to ACD and the DNR, and are used on the LakeFinder website.

The DNR LakeFinder website is the best means for the public to access available data on more than 4,500 Minnesota lakes relating to fisheries information, lake area and maximum depth, depth maps, lake water levels, water quality and clarity, air photos, and topographic maps. About 1,450 of the lakes have a historical record of more than 100 water level readings.

At the LakeFinder main page, go to "Find a Lake" and search by county, lake name, or 8-digit identification number for any lake. Click on the lake in the Search Results. On the next page, click on Water Levels report in the left hand column.

The Lake Water Level report page contains information from reported data, including:

  • reported historical and current lake levels
  • period of record and number of readings
  • highest recorded lake level
  • highest known lake level
  • lowest recorded lake level
  • recorded range
  • ordinary high water level [also shown as the red line on the 10-year graph]
  • datum
  • benchmarks
  • most recent 10-year graph [X-axis Year tick mark references mid-year]

ACD is currently seeking a volunteer for Peltier Lake. The permanent staff gauge is affixed to the outlet dam and is easily accessible from the Peltier Lake and Rice Creek Boat Launch parking lot. Having consistent data will help keep the DNR's LakeFinder website up to date throughout the summer. If you are interested in volunteering in taking weekly readings at Peltier Lake, you can reach out to Mollie Annen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 763-434-2030 ex. 180

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Rum River Streambank Stabilization – Grants Available to Landowners

The Anoka County Parks Department recently received a grant to implement conservation practices along the Rum River. Landowners on the Rum have access to funding to address riverbank erosion with a unique method known as cedar tree revetments. Cedar tree revetments are a low cost, but effective, means to address minor to moderate bank erosion before it gets worse and more expensive to fix. The technique involves cable-anchoring cut cedar trees alongside the bank. Cedar tree's dense branches are naturally rot-resistant and can provide many years of bank protection. This armoring technique helps protect property value, improves water quality in the river, and provides quality fish habitat.

Residents interested in having their riverbank evaluated for a cedar tree revetment should contact Kris Larson at the Anoka Conservation District (763-434-2030 ext. 110; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Installation of revetments will occur throughout the summer in 2021-2022. Most projects cost $5,000-$10,000. Landowners must provide 10% of the total project cost; the remaining 90% is grant-funded.

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Mississippi Community Park Riverbank Stabilization Project Update

The project design and bid packet to stabilize approximately 1,500 linear feet of severely eroding riverbank within Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka were recently finalized. Contractor bids are due in mid-April, and project construction is anticipated this summer during periods of low water to maximize riverbank access. Below is an overview of the planned stabilization process.

  • A section of the walking trail will be removed during construction but will be replaced following stabilization of the riverbank.
  • Mature tree and vegetation removal will be required for project access and grading.
  • The nearly vertical bank will be graded to a stable slope.
  • Hard armoring with rock at the bottom of the slope will provide protection against high flows and ice. The rock will be placed over a layer of filter fabric for protection of the underlying soil.
  • Live cuttings and plant plugs will be planted just above the riprap for additional stability, nearshore wildlife habitat, and a more natural appearance.
  • The slope above the riprap will be vegetated with a native seed mix, shrubs, and trees.
  • Additional features of the stabilization include strategic placement of boulders to provide recreational access points for fishing and viewing the river as well as small outcroppings to create a diversity of flows and enhance aquatic habitat.

Eroding riverbanks 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.

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.


May 11th 2021 Update:

A total of 12 bids were received and reviewed by staff from the City of Anoka, Hakanson Anderson, and Anoka Conservation District. The bids were competitive and many were within the available budget. The City of Anoka City Council approved the bids and awarded the project to the low bidder at the May 3rd meeting. A pre-construction meeting will be held with the selected contractor within the next month to review all project elements and ensure the project gets off to a smooth start.

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Stop the Spread of AIS

Summer is coming! Warmer temperatures and fishing opener mean aquatic invasive species and MN boaters are ramping up activity on Minnesota lakes and rivers.

Do your part to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals by cleaning, draining, and drying all recreational equipment that goes into a Minnesota lake or stream.

To help protect our lakes and rivers:

  • Clean and drain boats and equipment before leaving the water access.
  • Dispose of all unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash.
  • Learn to recognize aquatic invasive species (AIS).
  • Follow Minnesota's AIS laws and regulations.

Share this information with others who spend time fishing, boating, or recreating in Minnesota.

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Lake George Shoreline Stabilization Projects Selected

Seven properties totaling 540 feet of shoreline will be stabilized at Lake George in the coming months. The projects are part of efforts to reverse a trend of declining water quality in the lake and enhance near shore habitat. All of the project sites are on private properties with active shoreline erosion. The work will reduce sediment entering Lake George by 8 tons/yr and phosphorus by 12 lbs/yr.

The seven sites were chosen from all around the lake, and the places where ACD staff determined the greatest pollutant reductions could be achieved with the greatest certainty. We used existing shoreline inventories to identify 35 properties with actively eroding shoreline. Of those properties, 25 expressed interested. ACD staff visited each property and heard first-hand from those landowners about their shorelines. Finally, each shoreline was scored relative to erosive forces, current erosion, benefits of upland buffers to filter runoff, pollutant reduction calculations, and likelihood of success.

$70,000 in grant funds is available for construction. That dollar amount limits work to approximately the top seven projects, however more will be done if construction bids are low. Funding is from a Watershed Based Implementation grant from the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources. The programs for this grant were selected by a team of local partners including city, watershed organization, and soil and water conservation district representatives. Collaborators on the Lake George shoreline program include the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization and Lake George Conservation Club.

Shoreline stabilization measures will vary. All include rock or natural fiber protection at the water's edge, as well as a native plant shoreline buffer. Some will include regrading to a stable slope.

Owners of properties selected for shoreline stabilization are being notified now. Surveying, design, and construction bidding will occur in 2021.Projects will be installed in spring 2022.

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2020 ACD Technical Assistance Summary

ACD staff provide technical assistance for a wide variety of projects each year. Many of the requests for assistance come directly from landowners interested in improving natural resources or addressing concerns on their properties. Technical assistance is also provided for projects in collaboration with county, city, and watershed entity partners. The table to the right summarizes 2020 technical assistance provided by ACD staff.

Assistance begins with a site consultation. Consultations typically include a conversation with the landowner, desktop review of the site using GIS mapping software and available data sets, and a site visit to discuss options. If the landowner is interested in pursuing a project, ACD can provide design and installation oversight services. Maintenance guidance is also provided for previously installed projects.

Additional information about active projects and those previously completed is available on ACD's project tracking map.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=d1e76c3d808743c1b149bde24c990894

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Watercraft Inspector Web Data Tool

The MN Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) of the University of MN created an interactive website that displays all of the watercraft inspector data for any lake you may be interested in. This website shows infestation status as well as the risk of infestation for most lakes across the state. It also shows all incoming and outgoing boat traffic from any lake selected based on the survey responses received by watercraft inspectors.

The website can be found at https://www.aisexplorer.umn.edu/#!/

Select your county in the left hand pane, and click the lake you are interested in viewing on the map (Lake George in Anoka County shown). Once clicking the lake, you can view infestation status and a risk score based on boat traffic data. You can also choose to view all incoming or outgoing movements from this lake. This shows where boats were reported to be either immediately prior to or after launching at Lake George. These maps and their data can also be exported directly from the website using the export tools in the left pane. This website is a great tool to view the infestation status of lakes around you, the risk that those lakes face based on data collected, and to view the data collected by the many watercraft inspectors working hard around Minnesota each year to protect our waterways. 

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Rain Guardian Turret Installed at American Society of Civil Engineers Global Headquarters

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Global Headquarters parking lot was recently retrofit with a number of low impact development stormwater control measures to reduce runoff volumes and improve water quality. The demonstration project will provide visitors to the campus with an introduction to a variety of options for stormwater management.

One of the products installed was a FocalPoint high performance biofiltration system that also included a Rain Guardian Turret for pretreatment. Rain Guardians provide a stable inlet and effective pretreatment for bioretention systems by capturing sediment and debris in an easy to clean location. Other products installed included permeable pavers and porous concrete.

The campus has served as the ASCE Global Headquarters since 1994, is located just outside of Washington D.C., and hosts several thousand visitors each year.

Additional project information is available at https://www.ascefoundation.org/asce-sustainable-parking-lot-project.

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Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning Initiative Complete

The Metropolitan Conservation Districts (MCD), through funding provided by a Clean Water Fund Accelerated Implementation Grant, created the Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning (CGCP) protocol with the ultimate goal of water conservation project implementation. ACD served as the host district and led protocol development, provided staff training, conducted final report reviews for all 11 Metro counties, and prepared a final report summarizing all completed analyses.

The CGCP protocol provides a detailed analysis of all water using systems on a campus, both indoor and outdoor, and can be implemented by Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff throughout the state to produce prioritized lists of water conservation project opportunities. The straightforward work products produced by the CGCP protocol empower campus decision makers to confidently implement cost-effective water conservation projects.

Throughout the 11-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA), the CGCP protocol was implemented on 21 campuses with at least one analysis occurring in each county (see map below).Initial outreach efforts to campuses were prioritized based on campus age, with older campuses having a higher likelihood of inefficient fixtures, and selected campuses were required to be publicly owned and use groundwater as a water source.

Cumulatively, the 21 analyses identified significant opportunities for conserving groundwater and saving money. Potential projects from all campuses were compiled, and a total of 2,043 potential projects were identified that would cumulatively save over 113 million gallons over the estimated life of the projects, which averaged 8.4 years. However, not all 2,043 of the projects were financially favorable because the required payback period of some projects exceeds the project's lifespan.

There were 1,182 projects with a positive net financial savings (i.e. the payback periods for the projects are shorter than the estimated lifespan of the projects, so implementation results in a net financial savings) that cumulatively reduce water use by over 101 million gallons over the estimated lifespan of the projects, which averaged 8.6 years. Implementing all 1,182 projects would cost approximately $250,000, but the net savings over the life of the projects is over $485,000.

Nearly 200 of the projects had estimated payback periods of less than one year. Implementation of these projects would save over 15 million gallons of water over the estimated lifespan of the projects and requires an investment of just over $7,500.That initial investment is recouped within the first year, and over the lifespan of the projects, an additional $100,000 would be saved in water and energy costs.

Within Anoka County, Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids and Anoka High School in Anoka were both analyzed. Implementation of the 486 projects identified would cost approximately $100,000 and provide a net savings of over $135,000 over the lifespan of the projects. The total water savings over the life of the projects is estimated to be over 43 million gallons. The detailed reports are available on ACD's website.

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Hold the Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Waters

Minnesotans love their lakes, but we've got a growing problem with salt pollution. In this brand new short video produced by our partners in Washington County, the problem of chloride pollution is explained with easy-to-understand cartoon graphics and fun narration. The video also offers suggestions on what the general public can do to help protect Minnesota's waters from salt pollution!

The video is a great outreach tool for school or youth group sessions or for sharing on social media. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/Io-zTw5Yb6g

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Cut back on Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Infrastructure, Water Quality, and Aquatic Wildlife

The Twin Cities Metro applies 350,000 tons of road salt every year, but have you ever wondered where it goes when winter ends?

Stormwater and snowmelt carry dissolved road salt into lakes, streams, and groundwater when winter thaws out. Chloride, a major part of road salt compounds, is especially stubborn in water. Once it dissolves, there is no feasible method to remove chloride from water, and stormwater treatment solutions like stormwater ponds and rain gardens are ineffective at removing chloride. Instead, chloride gradually accumulates in our water bodies, harming fish and other aquatic life. The corrosive nature of road salt also contributes between $350 million and $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs each year to the Metro area alone.

What can we do about it?

Here are some helpful tips you can use to make your driveways and sidewalks safer and better for the environment this winter:

Shovel!

Salt is never a substitute for shoveling. Shovel your snow and ice first so that salt is only used for melting ice stuck to the ground.

Salt!

Traditional salt (sodium chloride) does not melt ice when the temperature is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a low-temperature alternative such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride to melt ice at lower temperatures or use sand to add traction. There is no such thing as an "environmentally friendly" salt, so it's best to stick to salt that will work in the given range of temperatures.

Scatter!

Did you know you only need a 12-oz. mug of salt to effectively de-ice a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares? When applying salt, aim to leave 2" between grains.

Sweep!

Sweeping up leftover salt and reusing it later is a great way to save money and limit the amount of salt getting into nearby waterways.


 Do you hire a contractor to maintain a sidewalk, driveway, or parking lot? Check out the MPCA's list of Smart Salting certificate holders to find a contractor trained on best practices for winter maintenance: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-tr1-01.xlsx

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History and Management of the Rum River

Anoka Dam, October 1897

The Rum River is one of the largest rivers in Anoka County, second only to the mighty Mississippi. It starts at the outlet of Mille Lacs Lake and winds through the landscapes of Mille Lacs, Isanti, and Anoka Counties until it discharges to the Mississippi River in the City of Anoka—but many don't know about the progress this river has made to become one of Minnesota's most outstanding waterways.

To really appreciate the Rum River today, it's good to understand a bit of its history. For many decades, the Rum River served as a large scale aquatic conveyor for lumber. Large white pine, elm, oak, cherry, and maple all floated down the river from central Minnesota forests to build the homes and business of the growing Twin Cities Metro Area. It also conveyed our sewage, agricultural waste, sediment laden runoff, and industrial by-products downstream to the Mississippi River, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

A former Anoka County commissioner who grew up in the area once said that when he was a kid, no one would dare to even fish in the Rum River, much less swim in it. I'm happy to say, over the last 80 years, the fate of the Rum River has been wholly reversed. Today the Rum River is:

Martin's Landing on the Rum River
  • One of 6 Wild and Scenic Rivers and 35 State Water Trails in Minnesota
  • Designated as an Outstanding Resource Value Water
  • An excellent fishery and waterfowl corridor with abundant smallmouth bass and wood duck
  • Key reach for Species in Greatest Conservation Need

This isn't to say that our Rum River is in the clear. In the last 30 years, the population in the area draining to the Rum River has increased by 47%. With that many people came more roads, parking lots, and roof tops that added 74% more stormwater runoff. The increased water volume and speed that came with this extra stormwater caused the river to slice deeper into the landscape and rip apart the riverbanks. When riverbanks collapse into the river, the resulting sediment smothers the fish, amphibians, and reptiles that now call the river home. The Rum River is also increasingly threatened by road salt and nutrient pollution coming from this stormwater.

A Cedar Tree Revetment installed to stabilize a bank on the Rum River.

ACD takes a holistic approach to managing these new challenges to the quality of the Rum River. We are heavily involved with monitoring the chemistry and biological quality of the River; we assist the local Watershed Management Organizations with analysis and planning; and we implement projects with willing landowners to improve water quality and habitat in the river. ACD is also involved with guiding land conservation projects near the Rum River needed to protect habitat and water quality, and we are working diligently with other local organizations to ensure future funding for projects protecting the Rum River.

Over the coming months, we will be posting short blogs to highlight individual projects and programs that ACD has directed for the benefit of the Rum River. Check in soon at www.anokaswcd.org/blog to learn more!

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What we wish we knew: lessons for rain garden implementation

Over the last decade the Anoka Conservation District (ACD) has been involved in the design and construction of over 100 rain gardens in Anoka County. While the overwhelming majority fall closer to the 'ideal' end of the spectrum, we've been party to a few on the 'nasty' end as well. Properly functioning rain gardens often go unnoticed because they blend in with other landscape amenities. In contrast, the small fraction of 'nasty' rain gardens get the public's attention with nasty smells and mosquito problems. Rest assured, we've learned from our mistakes, refined our process, corrected the problematic rain gardens, and can confidently say we're now able to avoid the 'nasties'.

The lessons learned over the years have improved every aspect of rain garden location, design, installation, maintenance, and follow-up. These are our suggestions for other organizations designing and installing rain gardens.

Failed rain garden that doesn't drain between rain events

Design

  • For a standard rain garden, the water table should be at least five feet below the bottom of the garden. This will require an eight-foot-deep soil boring during the design process because the bottom of the garden is often two to three feet below the original ground elevation. Rain gardens with shallower water tables are feasible, but require an underdrain to function properly.
  • Soils should have high infiltration rates, generally one to three inches per hour. Rain gardens can be built in soils with lower infiltration rates, but may require an underdrain or a ponding depth shallower than 12".
  • If an underdrain is needed, install a control mechanism that allows variable draw down rates and levels. This provides a mechanism to capitalize on natural infiltration that may increase as the deep root structure of the native plant community matures and creates pathways for infiltration.
  • Water must be able to get into the garden consistently, predictably, and without causing erosion. The curb-cut should be sized to safely pass sufficient water volumes.
  • Utilizing a retaining wall along the back of the garden can improve the aesthetic appeal and allow the garden to store more water. Rain garden side slopes should be no steeper than 3:1. Therefore, for every foot of wall height, three feet of rain garden bottom is gained. In many cases this simple addition more than doubles the size of the garden.
  • Consider using a pretreatment chamber. A pretreatment chamber functions like a filter, capturing floatables like leaves, trash, seeds, and sediment to ensure rain gardens are able to properly receive water and dry between storms
Rain garden mid-construction, with a retaining wall and intact curb
Location
  • Rain gardens should be sited where they will capture runoff from a sizeable contributing drainage area that would otherwise make it into a priority water resource.
  • They should treat stormwater that isn't already routed to a stormwater pond or other installation for stormwater management.
  • They should be strategically located on properties where they will quickly fill during storms and quickly drain between storms.
  • They need to be located where they won't interfere with utility lines. Utility companies have minimum cover requirements over lines that may not be met following rain garden excavation. While some utilities like cable lines can be moved or lowered for a relatively low expense, others like gas and electrical lines can be cost-prohibitive to relocate when they conflict with the proposed rain garden location.
  • If a rain garden is installed in an area where the road routinely floods over the curbs, water will flow into the rain garden over the sides and cause erosion. It will also result in deeper water than intended, which will take longer to drain out.
  • If a rain garden receives water from a large neighborhood with non-natural runoff sources like irrigation systems or sump pump discharge, the rain garden may never have the chance to drain completely.
Rain garden pretreatment chamber

Installation

  • Curb-cut rain gardens are one of the few conservation practices where landowners volunteer to use their property to treat runoff from other properties. The landowner volunteering contributes relatively little to the problem and benefits relatively little from the solution. They also commonly assume maintenance responsibility for 10 years. For these reasons, local government should consider covering 100% of the construction costs.
  • Avoid equipment traffic within the garden.
  • Check soil infiltration rates. If they are under the design specification, loosen soil throughout the
  • garden with a four-foot auger.
  • Plant gardens in the spring and early summer, not in the fall.
  • Lay no more than three inches of mulch.
  • If possible, consider leaving the curb intact until the plants are established and then complete the curb-cut. Minimally, when installing a curb-cut rain garden as a retrofit, leave the curb intact until the basin is completed. This ensures the basin is stable and ready to receive runoff as soon as the curb-cut and apron are installed.
  • Install informative temporary signage during construction and permanent signage upon project completion that explains the value and function of the rain garden.
Ideal rain garden

Maintenance

This is a list of suggestions that can be provided to a homeowner after installation:

  • Get your neighborhood involved! If your neighborhood has several rain gardens, try to schedule a periodic neighborhood cleanup day.
  • Mulch will break down and should be refreshed every couple years.
  • Stay on top of weeding. Err on the side of pulling too much.
  • Homeowners should not be afraid to experiment with the plants in their rain garden. Try using native plants to encourage pollinator presence!
  • Pretreatment chambers should be cleaned out after each rain event. This should take no more than a few minutes.
  • Remove excess leaves in the fall. Having a few leaves is great for catching sediment and creating critter habitat, but too many leaves will create mats and slow down water infiltration.
  • Regularly remove sediment that makes it past the pretreatment chamber.
Community rain garden cleanup in Anoka county

Follow-Up

  • The sponsoring local government should connect annually with homeowners to remind them of maintenance needs, expectations, and flexibility.
  • Make sure homeowners know who to call if they experience problems.
  • Consider providing a maintenance program to help with plant replenishment or other incentive to keep gardens well maintained.
  • After the 10-year life of the garden, consider a refresh. Hire professionals to remove all plants, mulch, and accumulated sediment and debris, and power wash the retaining wall and pretreatment chamber. Then, add new mulch and replant, salvaging mature plants whenever possible. This relatively inexpensive investment can buy another 10 years of function.

When done right, rain gardens are an effective and beautiful method for combating pollution in lakes and streams, replenishing groundwater, and creating pollinator habitat. However, not every property or every homeowner is ideally suited to have a rain garden. While professionals at ACD can assess whether or not a property is a viable candidate, only the homeowner can decide if they are up to the task of maintaining a rain garden.

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What in the World is a Rain Garden?

  Rain gardens have popped up like weeds throughout the Twin Cities over the last decade to mitigate stormwater pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams. Despite their prevalence, the function and purpose of these little curbside gardens remain a mystery for many folks.

Downspout rain garden

Rain Garden Benefits:

Cities are very dirty. When it rains, stormwater picks up everything from feces to the motor oil that your neighbors spilled on their driveway. Many older neighborhoods were developed without stormwater treatment, so pollutant-laden runoff from roads, houses, driveways, and parking lots makes its way directly into rivers, lakes, and streams. Stormwater doesn't end up in a wastewater treatment facility or septic system like the water that drains out of your bathtub.

When functioning correctly, rain gardens protect natural water bodies from polluted stormwater, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide habitat for local pollinators. Rain gardens can be built to any size or shape to fit into the landscape of old neighborhoods where space is limited. They are relatively inexpensive to design and construct and can be maintained by homeowners who agree to take on that responsibility.

To treat all of the water in a neighborhood, it may be necessary to pepper the neighborhood with many small rain gardens, or put in a few larger gardens depending on available space and landowner interest. A well-functioning rain garden will dry out within 48 hours after a rain event, which keeps the plants healthy and prevents creation of mosquito habitat.

  Rain Garden Types:

There are two basic types of rain gardens, those built to treat water exiting a gutter downspout, and those built to treat road runoff. The first type, called a downspout rain garden, can easily be installed by a homeowner. This type of rain garden can prevent flooding around downspouts and allow rainwater to recharge groundwater.

The second type is called a curb-cut rain garden because an opening is cut into a roadside curb to allow water to flow off the road into the rain garden. When the rain garden has filled to the brim, the stormwater flowing along the curb will pass by and flow into the storm drain as it did prior to installing the rain garden. Curb-cut rain gardens are much larger, more complex, and should be designed and installed by professionals. Curb-cut rain gardens are more cost-effective because they only treat water that would definitely have made it into the stormwater system. For this reason, they are the only type of rain garden for which Anoka Conservation District currently provides assistance.

While traditional curb-cut rain gardens are built with the expectation that water will drain through the soil, some rain gardens are built in conditions that don't allow for water to drain quickly enough. In this scenario, an underdrain would be installed below the rain garden. The underdrain re-directs excess water from the rain garden into the street's stormwater drain to prevent the rain garden from flooding.

Thriving curb-cut rain garden that easily drains within 48 hours
Failed rain garden that does not drain between storms

Rain Garden Pitfalls:

Unfortunately, some rain gardens don't work as intended. Due to poor planning, faulty design, shoddy construction, or a lack of maintenance, some rain gardens fail to properly fill or drain. When done right, rain gardens are an effective and aesthetically pleasing method for combating pollution in lakes and streams, replenishing groundwater, and creating pollinator habitat. However, not every property or every homeowner is ideally suited to have a rain garden. While professionals at ACD can assess whether or not a property is a viable candidate, only the homeowner can decide if they are up to the task of maintaining a rain garden.
  3766 Hits

Minnesota's Changing Climate

Flooding in a Southwestern MN Ag. Field

Minnesota is one of the states most impacted by climate change. Official precipitation and temperature data has been collected in Minnesota from 1895 through today, showing some striking statistics about our changing climate:

  • 13% increase in the size of the heaviest annual rainfall.
  • Since 2000, rains of more than 6" are four times more frequent than the previous 30 years prior.
  • 65% increase in the number of 3" rains.
  • Average temperatures in Minnesota have warmed by 3˚F since 1895.
  • Overall, Minnesota's climate is warmer and wetter.


These changes are impacting Minnesota's wildlife, forests, water quality, infrastructure, and outdoor recreation (especially winter sports). Below are some links to MN DNR infographic GIFs that shows the change to our 30-year average winter temperature and 30-year average yearly precipitation:

 

Sinkhole in Duluth Following a 7"+ Rainfall
As you can see, Minnesota's winters are warming dramatically, with the 9˚ contour moving  north by as much as 150 miles. Similarly, the 26" contour for precipitation has migrated roughly 100 miles to the Northwest.

We witnessed the impact of elevated precipitation in 2012 when the most damaging flood in Duluth's recorded history began when heavy rains fell over already saturated ground on June 19th and 20th. At the Duluth National Weather Service (NWS) the rainfall total for those two days was 7.24 inches. A NWS volunteer observer in Two Harbors recorded the storm's largest value of 10.45 inches in 24 hours.

The aftermath included millions of dollars of insurance losses to repair roads, bridges, homes and businesses. Many homes foundations were damaged extensively and the houses were razed. One state highway (MN 23) was closed for 3 years while it was repaired. The City of Duluth has had to adapt their stormwater infrastructure to withstand events that 30 years ago were considered 500-year events, but now happen regularly. In June 2018, just southeast of Duluth, the area received up to 10" of rain and once again damaged Highway 23.

Here in Anoka County, we've witnessed a similar story in 2019, with all of the monitored lakes, rivers, and streams in the County reaching historic water level averages for the year. This increase in precipitation only solidifies the need for comprehensive watershed management to make sure that our infrastructure and waterways can handle the increased erosion and flow produced by this additional rain. 

 Interested in learning more? Check out MN Pollution Control Agency's Climate Change in Minnesota webpage or the MN Department of Natural Resources Climate Data

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What is an As-Built, and Why is it Important?

ACD recently led a project that improved the water quality benefits provided by two stormwater ponds adjacent to Martin Lake in Linwood Township. The project increased the size and depth of the ponds to the maximum extent practicable within the limited spaces available. The projects were a great success, and were recently highlighted in an outreach article titled, 'Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes'. They're worth mentioning again in order to highlight a critical piece of successful construction management that most people never see, the as-built survey.

As-built surveys, also commonly referred to as record drawings, provide formal documentation of exactly how a project was installed. They document the actual results of the construction project rather than the planned layout shown in the project design and are critical for project closeout.

As-built surveys ensure the project was built to meet the specifications in the original plan set. This allows the project engineer to confidently sign-off that the project was installed as per the plan. If any deviations from the original plan were approved during the construction process, the as-built survey will show the changes as they were installed and provide an opportunity to formally document those changes. Final payment to the contractor is also typically withheld until engineer sign-off on the as-built survey.

The as-built survey also provides a formal record that can be used to standardize how a project should be maintained over its lifespan. In the event of these stormwater ponds, accumulated sediment and debris should be periodically removed to achieve the original design depths in order to ensure the ponds continue to function at maximum efficacy.

Depending on the type and scale of a project, multiple as-built surveys may be completed throughout the construction process to confirm critical elevations and layouts are being met prior to approving advancement to the next construction step. They are typically shown as an overlay on the original plan sheet to allow a direct comparison and easy identification of any significant deviations from the original plan.

The 228th Place stormwater pond as-built (see plan sheet below) documented key elevations around the pond to ensure safe side slopes were achieved. It also documented the stabilized outlet and controlled overflow elevation to ensure neighboring properties were not at risk of flooding as a result of the project.

As-built surveys and the associated formal documentation they provide can sometimes be neglected because project installation went smoothly and according to plan, but they are a critical component to successful construction management and project closeout.

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Clean Water Funds for Eroding Rum Riverbanks

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is recommending $440,000 in funding to ACD from the Clean Water Fund[1] competitive grant fund for stabilizing eroding Rum Riverbanks. This funding will be used in conjunction with funds already received from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council[2] ($816,000 to ACD) and the DNR Conservation Partners Legacy[3] grant ($185,000 to Anoka County Parks) for Rum Riverbank stabilization and habitat enhancement projects. These three funding sources will cover projects of all sizes, from small banks only needing cedar tree revetments to large failing banks requiring sophisticated engineering and reconstruction. The funds from the Clean Water Fund grant will be prioritized for the latter.

With additional matching funds from Anoka County, the Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs, ACD and landowners, over $1.5M-worth of streambank projects will be installed over the next three years to help the Rum River. The Rum River is a highly prized resource in Anoka County, but it is on the brink of impairment for phosphorus concentrations, and it has extensive bank erosion. The sediment washing into the river from these eroding banks dirties the water, increases nutrients, and smothers habitat for aquatic wildlife. ACD performed a streambank erosion analysis[4] from 2017 to 2019 that led to this concerted effort by ACD and Anoka County to secure state grant funding and local matching funds to make a big push to help the River. 

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Smart Salting Display at the Northtown Library in Blaine

Chloride is virtually impossible to remove from a waterbody. Once it's there, it's there for good. Just one teaspoon of salt contains enough chloride to pollute five gallons of water forever! And according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, we apply an estimated 365,000 tons of salt in the Twin Cities metro area each year. And what's even worse is that research shows that 78 percent of that salt is either transported to our groundwater supplies or remains in our local lakes and wetlands.

For the whole month of December, a display all about smart salting is up at the Northtown Library in Blaine. The display is a collaboration between the Anoka Conservation District and the Coon Creek Watershed District. It provides information about chloride pollution in Minnesota along with easy ways for residents to reduce their salt use while remaining safe this winter. When done viewing the display, library patrons can virtually sign the Smart Salting Pledge to reduce their salt use this season.

Learn more about smart de-icing practices here: https://www.mwmo.org/learn/preventing-water-pollution/snow-ice-removal/ 

Sign the Pledge here!

  510 Hits

Thank You Water Monitoring Volunteers!

The Anoka Conservation District would like to thank our hardworking water monitoring volunteers for all the work they did throughout the 2020 monitoring season. Local volunteers install monitoring equipment near where they live and then take readings throughout the year. Water levels on a large number of lakes are recorded as well as tracking daily rain totals. This type of data is used in analysis and when making other natural resource management decisions. Data networks like these are not possible without the help of local residents. All of the data is available to the public through online databases operated by State of Minnesota.

Thank you Volunteers!


https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/climate_monitor/precipcharts.html

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html

  550 Hits

Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes

One rain garden and two stormwater pond renovations were completed in November to treat stormwater before it reaches Martin and Coon Lakes. The projects will collectively treat 39 acres of residential development that previously were draining to the lakes with little or no treatment. They will keep 2,100 pounds of sediment and 5 pounds of phosphorus from reaching the lakes each year.

These waterbodies were priorities because both lakes are surrounded by homes and heavily used for recreation. Martin Lake is nearing the criteria for being removed from the State's list of impaired waters. Coon Lake has good water quality but is under pressure.

The rain garden was constructed in cooperation with a residential landowner along Hupp Street. Their property is a key location where drainage from 8 acres converged and entered a catch basin that piped stormwater to Coon Lake. Curb cuts on each side of the catch basin now intercept that water, allowing it to soak into the ground within the rain garden. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 52% compared to the pre-project condition. Mulching and planting of the gardens will be delayed until spring 2021 due to cold temperatures early in fall 2020. The property owners will maintain the garden.

The stormwater pond projects are redesigns and renovations of older ponds. Both ponds are on Martin Lakeshore within township-owned property. Both basins had filled with sediment over time and were providing little water quality treatment. Now, the basins are even larger than originally constructed to maximize pollutant removal. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 84% and 104%, respectively, at the two ponds. Linwood Township will own and maintain the basins.

These projects are part of a State Clean Water, Land and Legacy grant to the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization. The Anoka Conservation District is managing the projects. Additional funds remain and will be used for similar projects in 2021.

Collaborators on these projects included the ACD, SRWMO, Martin Lakers Association, Linwood Township, and the City of East Bethel.

  682 Hits

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.
  697 Hits

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

  698 Hits

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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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. 

  767 Hits

Martin Lake Receives Carp Management Boost from Grants

In August and September the Anoka Conservation District is leading carp removal projects at Martin Lake. The lake, and others in the same chain that are being similarly managed, have high carp populations that affect water quality, habitat and the fishery. Six funding sources have combined to launch the work in 2020.

In the last two years, grants were used to remove over 5,000 carp from Martin Lake and a similar amount in Typo Lake. That is half-way to the goal set in a management study conducted by Dr. Przemek Bajer of Carp Solutions, LLC and the ACD. That work was done with grants in 2018-2019 that are now spent.

We're excited to be able to bring this management to conclusion with new funding sources in 2020-2022. Funding for the chain of lakes includes:

  • $148,000 Clean Water, Land and Legacy grant from the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources.
  • $28,500 from the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization.
  • $5,000 from the Linwood Lake Improvement Association.
  • $9,750 from the Martin Lakers Association, donated by residents to their Water Quality Fund.
  • $5,000 Anoka County Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention grant to the Martin Lakers Association.
  • Labor contributed by Linwood Township and the Anoka Conservation District.

To request to be on an email list for regular project updates, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Updates are also periodically posted to the ACD website here: Carp Harvests

  725 Hits
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Stormwater Treatment Projects Being Constructed at Coon and Martin Lakes

By the end of September 2020, both Coon and Martin Lakes will have new treatment of stormwater before that water reaches the lake. Two stormwater ponds at Martin Lake are being renovated. One new rain garden at Coon Lake is being constructed.

The two stormwater ponds already exist on the shores of Martin Lake at 228th Place and 230th Avenue (see map). Like a full vacuum cleaner bag, they have captured as much sediment and nutrients as is possible. To call them "ponds" today seems generous. Each will be made deeper than the original design, like replacing an old, full vacuum cleaner bag with an empty, bigger bag. Pollutant removal will be more than 50% greater than when the ponds were originally designed and new. Water reaches the ponds by pipes that capture water from several acres of surrounding neighborhood, including roads.

The rain garden at Coon Lake will capture curbside water that today is piped to Coon Lake without treatment. The curb will be cut creating entrances to the approximately 1 ft deep basin. Sandy soils allow quick infiltration of the water. A special underdrain ensures no standing water. Native plants create a garden appearance. The owner of the property on Channel Lake has agreed to maintain the garden.

Images show project locations and condition of the stormwater ponds before renovation.

  673 Hits

Know Your Shoreline

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. 

  663 Hits

Adopt a Drain before Labor Day and Receive a Free Tote Bag!

Our local waterways need YOUR help! Sign up to adopt a storm drain before Labor Day and you'll receive a free tote bag*, perfect for showing off your dedication to your local environment. Program participants that refer a friend will also get a tote bag*!

Adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood to keep it free of leaves, trash, and other pollutants. Storm drains feed directly into our local lakes and rivers, unfiltered, so it's important to keep them clear for cleaner and healthier waterways. When pollutants reach our water, they feed the algae that turn lakes and rivers green, often choking out the food and oxygen wildlife needs to survive. Not to mention algae is ugly, stinky, and makes it difficult to enjoy our beloved water activities.

Adopting a drain FREE and so easy—it only takes a few minutes of your time each month. Do it at your convenience—whenever it works for you!

Though most cities sweep local streets about twice a year, debris collects and runs into local waterways year-round. Adopt-a-Drain asks residents to sign up to fill in the gaps in a city's capacity to keep streets clean. So far, over 12,000 drains have been adopted and over 200,000 pounds of debris has been kept out of our waterways by heroes who care about the environment like you. Will you be next to join the movement?

The Mississippi River and the 833 lakes in the Twin Cities metro area will thank you!

Learn more or sign up at https://www.adopt-a-drain.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/AdoptaDrainMN/



*while supplies last

Modified with permission from Clean Water MN

  612 Hits

Anoka County Lakes and River Photos on Google Street View

The Anoka Conservation District has been collecting photo inventories of lakes and rivers around Anoka County and uploading them to Google Street View. We use these photos to look for restoration and stabilization opportunities at eroded or degraded shorelines. You can also view these photos just like you can view streets on Google Maps! All of our photos are available to the public, and so far we have over 618k views! All you have to do to see the photos for yourself is:

1. Navigate to Google Maps in a web browser,

2. Zoom to the lake or river you are interested in (current list of completed inventories below),

3. Grab and drag the "Little Orange Man" in the bottom right of Google Maps to a blue circle or line in the lake or river,

4. And finally, you can pan photos as 360° orbs by clicking and dragging your mouse around. You can also advance around the lake or down the river by clicking the floating gray arrows that appear on the water to zoom to the next picture.

So far we have photos available on the following waterbodies:

  • Rum River
  • Mississippi River (south of Coon Rapids Dam)
  • Lake George
  • Coon Lake
  • Linwood Lake
  • Martin Lake
  • Typo Lake


We are planning to do more inventories in the coming years, so check back into Google Maps periodically, or continue to follow us for more updates!

  1146 Hits

Protecting Your Streambank without Breaking the Bank

Erosion along streambanks can cause pollution to local water resources and result in loss of property for landowners. Many times, developmental practices leave streambanks bare and without vegetation covering the soil which can lead to erosion.

Live staking is a practice that puts vegetation back into vulnerable areas. This practice is very low-cost when compared to other streambank stabilization practices and is also something that a landowner can do on their own.

Live stakes can be purchased but many times can be found actively growing in the wild. The most common species used for live staking are species of Willow and Dogwood.

Live stakes should be cut in 2-3 foot lengths and be between 0.5 and 1.5 inches in diameter. It's recommended to cut the stakes at an angle to make them easier to install.

Once harvested, live stakes can be stored for several days in a bucket of water out of the sun but it is recommended to harvest and install live stakes within the same day.

Install stakes in rows, two to three feet apart along the streambank. Planting needs to be deep enough so that the plants can reach water. The stakes are purposely planted densely knowing that not all stakes will survive.

Strong root growth is important during the first growing season. You may not see above-ground growth or budding but that does not mean plants didn't survive. A light tug on the stake can help identify if the roots have become established.

This practice is easy to maintain and additional stakes can easily be added in the future to improve bank stability and fill in any of the areas you may have missed. 

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Blue-Green Algae and the Value of Water Monitoring

Recent hot weather has put lakes in the news. Some, particularly those already polluted with too many nutrients, experience blooms of toxic blue-green algae that create a health concern about getting in the water. Sometimes beaches are closed. Each year there are a few reports in the state of dogs dying from drinking that water. They are dramatic reasons lakes and rivers are monitored, but not the only reasons.

The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) monitors water quality in 20 lakes and 20+ stream or river sites. Not all waters are monitored every year.This monitoring is used for:

  • Surveillance – Identifying problems early.
  • Diagnosis – Determining the cause of problems.
  • Project effectiveness – Track how efforts to improve waters are working, and adjust management to maximize returns.


ACD focuses on lake health and recreational suitability, and can highlight places where health-related monitoring is warranted. Public beaches are required to do other health-related monitoring.

During the summer months, use caution around algae blooms. Toxic blue-green algae cannot be identified just by looking at it, but algal slimes on the water are certainly a warning sign. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency advises, "when in doubt, stay out."

There is no practical treatment to remove blue-green algae from our lakes. It is part of the natural algae community. However, we can work to reduce nutrients that fuel algae blooms. In this way we can improve overall lake recreational suitability and reduce health concerns.

  776 Hits

ACD Staff Provide Virtual Tour for Metropolitan Area Conservation Districts Summer Meeting

Anoka Conservation District staff provided a 90-minute virtual tour focused on lake management and shoreline stewardship for the Metropolitan Area Conservation Districts summer meeting. Attendees included supervisors and staff from the 11-county metro area.

Typically, a bus tour is coordinated in order to highlight completed projects throughout the selected county. COVID-19 of course prevented this approach, but rather than cancel the tour, ACD facilitated a virtual tour. The novel approach was very well received by the approximately 30 attendees.

Topics included understanding your lake, assessing the health of lakes, recruiting and being a lake steward, and highlights of lake stewardship projects. Staff presentations used animations, pictures, and videos to demonstrate the complexity of managing different types of lakes and working with landowners to manage shorelines.

For more information about technical and financial resources available for lakeshore restoration projects, click here: https://www.anokaswcd.org/lakeshore-restoration.html/

  616 Hits

What can I do with my wetland?

Whether you call it a swamp, marsh, or low area, it is most likely a wetland and it is most likely regulated by someone.

ExcavatingAnoka County residents frequently inquire how to improve their land for waterfowl or other wildlife. A common practice in Anoka County is pond excavations in seasonally saturated areas, or cattail-choked wetlands to provide an open water habitat. The Wetland Conservation Act regulates excavations in the permanently and semi-permanently flooded areas of type 3, 4, or 5 wetlands and also regulates the placement of spoil and the depth of the excavation in all types of wetlands. Other jurisdictions including the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may have regulatory authority on wetland excavation projects.

DrainingThere is potential for pond excavations to drain adjacent wetland areas. Typically, in Anoka County, if the hydrology is predominantly groundwater driven, a pond excavation can be designed that will not drain adjacent wetlands. However, there is an increased likelihood that a pond excavation will drain adjacent wetlands when wetlands hydrology is primarily surface water, or when the excavation is connected to a drainage ditch. This is an issue that is best addressed by your local government or the Anoka Conservation District during review of a specific project.

Filling: Filling of wetlands must be avoided during pond excavations. The spoil from the excavation must be placed in an upland area. A qualified wetland professional may be needed to ensure that the destination of the spoil is upland.

Proper erosion control practices must be incorporated as well. If you have questions, contact the Anoka Conservation District for assistance. Contact us.

  765 Hits
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