Anoka Conservation District Blazing Trails

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Don't Feed the Deer!

In recent years the Minnesota DNR has been tracking the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in Minnesota deer. Chronic Wasting Disease (or CWD) is a neurological degenerative disease that causes the brains of deer (and other cervids) to deteriorate and become spongy. It ultimately leads to the death of the infected animal. While a direct link to human infection by CWD through contact with or consumption of infected deer has not been recorded, other similar diseases do affect humans.

The larger concern for now is the spread of the disease through Minnesota deer populations. The positive test rates of CWD have been historically low in Minnesota, but positive tests do keep occurring in new areas. CWD can spread from deer to deer through direct or indirect contact. The prions, or infectious agents of CWD, can be spread through deer saliva, urine, feces, blood, and even antler velvet. Concentrating numerous deer in one area greatly increases the chances that the disease can spread through the local population and keep spreading outward from there. Deer feeders, salt licks, and other attractants concentrate deer to an area and increase the likelihood of the disease spreading.

The MN DNR is implementing feeding and attractant bans in and around areas where CWD has been found. Anoka County is not yet included on the ban list for either of these activities, but it is surrounded on all sides by counties that are. Now is the time to be proactive. We all love to watch the deer in our yard, local parks, and wildlife areas, especially the spotted fawns in the spring. Many of us also enjoy watching for a set of antlers on a chilly fall morning from a tree stand. Stopping the use of deer feed and attractants now will help ensure that we can continue to watch and marvel at these majestic animals into the future.

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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. 

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Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Many invasive species are now beginning to develop mature seed. Here are some ways you can do your part to prevent spreading their seed:

  • Avoid mowing invasive species with seed. Seed will travel with the mower and likely remain on the mower to be spread into new areas.
  • Beware of seeds found on your boots or clothing. They may be in the mud between your boot treads or attached to your clothes like Velcro. Use a boot brush to clean your boots and check for seeds on your clothing.
  • Seeds may also attached to treads on bikes, ATV, and stroller tires. Spray down tires to remove mud and plant parts.


Invasive plants can harm ecosystems and choke out beneficial native plants. Always be vigilant to prevent the spread of invasive species!

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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

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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.

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Watershed Based Implementation Funding

A state strategy to move away from competitive grant funding and toward predictable and reliable allocations for water resource management is underway. The concern with competitive funding is the amount of staff time that is dedicated toward the preparation of project applications. With funding requests consistently exceeding available funding by a factor of four, the likelihood of success is slim. This creates a system of feast or famine project implementation, which leads to the highly inefficient cycle of building and dismantling programs and services.

The new approach, called Watershed Based Implementation Funding will eventually allocate up to 80% of available Clean Water Fund dollars to established partnerships that have ready-to-implement strategic plans. After the bugs are worked out, the hope is that water resource managers will be able to predict funding availability more accurately and be able to implement water quality improvement projects efficiently and systematically.

Anoka Conservation District is a member of four of these watershed-based partnerships: Rum River, Lower St. Croix, Mississippi West, and Mississippi East. Each group is in the process of meeting virtually to discuss how to distribute funds allocated to their watershed area. Allocations for watershed areas are based on land area and other factors, and vary greatly.

Funds can be distributed to partners to pursue the projects identified in their individual plans, or to a ranked list of projects compiled and approved by the partnership. Each group is likely to take a different approach. In the Rum River, a project list was developed by consensus of the partners, and was heavily influenced by project readiness. In the Lower St. Croix, there is a single master plan, called a 1-Watershed, 1-Plan that is being used to guide project selection. In Mississippi West, a ranking system has been developed and each partner may bring forward up to two projects for consideration. In Mississippi East, the preference seems to be to allocate funds to the three subgroups (soils and water conservation districts, watershed management organizations, and counties with groundwater plans) and have them work amongst themselves to develop a list of implementation activities.

How ever we get there, it will be exciting to see what projects and programs come to fruition through this new approach. 

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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!

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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/

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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.

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Riverbanks, Lakeshores, and Rain Gardens, Oh My! - It's Been a Busy Spring

Anoka Conservation District staff have had a busy spring providing technical assistance to landowners for projects related to water resources. Inquiries about riverbanks, lakeshores, and rain gardens have been particularly common. In total, technical assistance has been provided to over 40 individual property landowners.

Active erosion is the primary reason that prompts people to reach out for assistance with their riverbanks and lakeshores. ACD staff have expertise in a wide variety of stabilization methods and know what it takes to complete a successful project. For example, stabilization projects typically require a formal design and coordination with a qualified contractor for installation. There are also a number of permits commonly required, which ACD staff have experience coordinating. Thus far in 2020, technical assistance has been provided for 13 riverbanks and 12 lakeshores.

Technical assistance has also been provided for 16 rain gardens so far in 2020. Rain gardens are generally categorized as either rooftop disconnect or curb-cut. Rooftop disconnect rain gardens receive runoff from downspouts. Driveway runoff could also be directed to rooftop disconnect rain gardens via a trench drain.Rooftop disconnect rain gardens can be a great do-it-yourself project. Curb-cut rain gardens direct water from the curb and gutter system into a shallow depression in your yard near the road and are primarily constructed by landscape contractors. Once the rain garden fills (typically 1' deep), the runoff bypasses the inlet so there is no risk of flooding your yard. This allows the 'first flush' to be treated, which typically has the most pollutants.

Available funding can be limited, but it's always a good idea to check because new grants may become available from year to year. If funding is unavailable, ACD staff can minimally provide technical assistance. That process typically begins with a phone call or email to learn about the site. ACD staff then conduct a desktop site assessment using available mapping data and schedule site visits when necessary. ACD will also provide assistance with design and construction management, which are sometimes covered by grants.

If you have questions about your property, please contact us. In addition to assistance with projects related to water resources, ACD staff are also available to assist with habitat restoration projects. 

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A Decade of Competitive Clean Water Funding: How Do Local Partners Stack Up?

The voter approved Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment increased sales tax in 2010 to create a constitutionally dedicated funding source so we could manage our natural resources for the enjoyment of current and future generations. The funds are distributed through the Clean Water Fund (CWF) to improve surface water and groundwater, the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) to improve habitat, and the Parks & Trails Fund to improve local and regional parks. The amendment expires in 2034, 25 years after it was passed. Of the three funds, the Clean Water Fund is the one most relied on by local government units to implement locally important projects and programs. During the first 10 years of competitive Clean Water Fund awards, 582 local government units submitted 2,064 successful project proposals and secured over $279M in funds to make our water resources better.

In the first decade of Clean Water Fund awards, Anoka Conservation Districts comes in at a respectable 7th of 582. With 18 successful grant applications totaling just under $4M, we've been able to do a lot of work for those who live, work and play in Anoka County. Details of all CWF projects can be found at Legacy.MN.gov.

Of course, that is only a small part of the whole story. ACD works in tandem with many partners wholly and partially within Anoka County who have also been very successful securing CWF funds and putting water management into action. You may have noticed that three of the top ten recipients statewide serve all or portions of Anoka County, including the City of St. Francis and the Rice Creek Watershed District. In total, twelve of the twenty-one cities in Anoka County, along with three of the seven water management entities have all secured CWF funds to manage surface water and groundwater resources. Many of those not listed were critical partners in project funding, installation, and maintenance. We are all working together to ensure our water resources have a bright future.

Outdoor Heritage Funds have also been a critical source of funds to support habitat management in Anoka County, but that's another story.

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