Lakes are the center of attention in northern Minnesota

Minnesota’s lakes are just the best! For generations we have looked to our lakes for rest, relaxation, recreation, and family memories. The thought of a weekend at the lake stirs up emotions many of us can’t put into words. Whether you are a regular at a resort, own a cabin or permanently reside lakeside, you know the value of our lakes.

Lakes drive much of our economy in the north. We have not only some of the cleanest lakes in the state, but in the entire country! Our lakes and rivers are also the source of pure water for many larger cities downstream.

Unfortunately, many of our waters are in danger to a host of threats. Some property owners are replacing more and more of the natural lakeshore habitat with fertilized lawns, larger building structures, and paved surfaces. These hard or “impervious surfaces ” do not slow down stormwater runoff. Our lakes are becoming inundated with runoff filled with contaminants and nitrates that cause changes to the water quality and the lake’s natural balance.

Example of storm- water runoff on a lake lot.

Stormwater falls and begins to collect contaminants from the air, buildings, and yard space. Impervious surfaces like the roof of a building (A) or paved driveway/walkways, expedite the flow of stormwater runoff. Slowing runoff with a rain barrel (B) under a downspout not only catches excess water, but is a good source of extra water for gardens. Broken surfaces like stone or pebble walkways (C) allow water to better soak into the ground.

Trees and native plants act as a sponge, soaking up stormwater runoff. Strategically placed rain gardens with native flowers and plants are helpful for soaking up excess stormwater runoff. The slope along a the building (D) in the graphic above would be a good location.

A berm or shoreline ridge (H) is helpful in limiting direct rain runoff. Sometimes these ridges are created naturally from ice heaves in the spring.

People go to the lake to enjoy it. We understand the value of a sandy beach. But over development of shoreline and the elimination of all natural shoreline buffers reduces the ability of a lake to protect itself from contaminants. Removing shoreline vegetation in small amounts is often permissible, however, we strongly encourage leaving more than you remove. Maybe the removal of some vegetation at (E) is partnered with encouraged growth in other locations like (F) and (G).

Natural shoreline buffers can be as simple as leaving a section of no-mow grasses along the lake, or in cases where shoreline damage has occurred, newer practices like the addition of Coir Logs can be used.

These buffers not only protect your property from erosion and wave action, but also provide habitat for fish, birds, and animals. Native shorelines are essential for the natural cycles that support our legendary Minnesota fisheries.