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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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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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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$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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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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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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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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