Emergent Vegetation Plays an Important Role in Lake Health

Emergent aquatic plants such as cattails, bulrushes, and sedges grow within the shallow margins, or "littoral zone", of most lakes in Minnesota. These plants improve water clarity as their roots stabilize the lakebed and take in nutrients. Their stems and leaves provide habitat both above and below the water, and they protect shorelines against the forces of wave action. Emergent plants often grow alongside other aquatic vegetation, collectively creating diverse habitat essential to lake health. 

Any Destruction of Emergent Vegetation Requires a Permit in Minnesota - Lakeshore owners often wish to remove emergent vegetation to improve their water access. Given the important role emergent vegetation plays in lakes, any removal of aquatic emergent plants requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The permit process connects landowners with professionals to ensure that the extent of vegetation removal (and methods used to achieve it) minimize impacts to the lake. Learn more about aquatic plant regulations HERE.

When Does Emergent Vegetation Become Problematic? - Non-native species such as narrow-leaf and hybrid cattails often grow in dense monocultures that can outcompete native species. Habitat quality and recreation can be quickly reduced as these species spread across large areas of shallow water, but management efforts to remove them are often challenging and costly. When occurring in small clusters, these plants can still provide water quality benefits along shorelines where native emergent plants are absent. In either circumstance, any removal of emergent plants - even if non-native -  requires a permit.

Expectations for Living on a Lake - Aquatic vegetation is a natural and important part of lake and wetland systems. The abundance and types of plants present are largely driven by water depth and clarity. Many lakes in the north metro are shallow (less than 15 ft. deep) or are technically open-water wetlands. When paired with good water quality allowing sunlight to reach the bottom, these lakes usually contain abundant vegetation throughout. The alternative is poor water quality from disturbances such as excessive nutrients, which can  reduce aquatic vegetation and the fish and wildlife that depend on it. Learn more about shallow lake vegetation from this StoryMap produced by the Rice Creek Watershed District: Aquatic Plants: Guardians of our Shallow Lakes.

For more information contact Breanna Keith, Water Resource Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  381 Hits

Getting a Better View from the Water

Inventorying shoreline zones on surface waters throughout Anoka County serve as valuable tools for assessing lakeshore and riverbank conditions, comparing current conditions to previous years to identify changes, and for prioritizing project implementation. ACD recently purchased a 360° video camera that has 4 high-definition lenses and a rugged design, to be used outside in the elements. The camera takes continuous video that is Geo-located and stitched together creating a final GPS video that is viewable from all angles. Following a day on the water with the 360° camera, videos are uploaded to Google Street View Studio, a new application recently released by Google. 

Like a Road That Shows Up Blue in Google Street View, You Can Place the Person Down on the Blue Track on the Water Body
Oak Glen Creek, Fall, 2023. You Can Click or Use Keyboard Arrows To Move Your Way From One Image To The Next

Once uploaded to the Google Studio App, the videos are public and accessible to anyone. ACD utilizes these videos to compile shoreline reports, which describe erosion severity and provide recommendations for project needs. Shoreline videos along Martin, Coon, Linwood Lake, the southern portion of the Mississippi River, and Oak Glen Creek were collected throughout 2023 and are now available to view. Click on the individual links above to begin exploring. Videos along the Rum River were also collected and will be available to the public soon!

For more information contact Kris Larson, Water Resource Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

  1121 Hits

Living Large on a Small Lake

Minnesota boasts an impressive 12,208 lakes, as classified by the Minnesota DNR. Among them, 8,402, or roughly 69%, are classified as 'natural environment lakes.' Anoka County is home to several natural environment lakes including Fawn, South Coon, and Island Lakes.

What defines a natural environment lake? These are the smaller, shallower lakes, typically less than 150 acres in size and less than 15 feet deep. They come with numerous developmental constraints and are particularly sensitive to disturbance. With lakeshore properties in high demand across Minnesota, many natural environment lakes are now being earmarked for development. However, it's important to note that the lakeshore experience offered by these lakes might not align with the typical desires for boating or swimming that potential buyers often have.

Learn more about natural lakes on November 8th through a webinar featuring Joe Bischoff, an aquatic ecologist at Barr Engineering Co. Joe will delve into the intricacies and benefits of natural environment lakes. Additionally, some of the ongoing local conservation efforts to monitor and protect natural environment lakes will be highlighted.

Register today at tinyurl.com/small-lakes

  669 Hits

The Benefits of Simple Lakeshore Practices

The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) recently installed a 70-foot lakeshore restoration project to mitigate active erosion at a property on the east side of Martin Lake in northern Anoka County. This section of property is heavily used by the family and was a priority to keep intact. The shoreline had receded/eroded back, with certain areas experiencing severe undercutting caused by wave action. These vulnerable sections could lead to additional property loss in the future and contribute to pollutant loading into Martin Lake, further degrading water quality. 

As designed, this project should stabilize the shoreline and allow new vegetation to become established from existing native sources. It is estimated that the project will prevent 1.3 pounds/year of phosphorous from entering the waterbody throughout the life of the project.

Coir logs are designed entirely of natural materials that are made to biodegrade into the soil overtime. The material is inexpensive, durable, and able to be shaped uniquely to the shoreline. Coir logs can be purchased in different densities, lengths, and diameters, depending on the erosion situation. Compared to other types of erosion control practices, coir logs are low in cost and can be installed by landowners without professional guidance. These practices are also easy to maintain because landowners can fix individual sections that may be damaged over time.

Coir logs protect against wave action and allow banks to stabilize while encouraging vegetation growth. Sections of coir logs are installed in a continuous line near the bank and secured into place using wooding stakes which will also naturally degrade. Aquatics plants are commonly planted into the coir log to provide more enhancement.

This project was funded by the landowner and the ACD cost-share program. ACD provided project administration, design services, and project installation. 

  886 Hits

Six Lake George Shorelines Stabilized and Naturalized

The Anoka Conservation District has completed work with six landowners on Lake George to correct shoreline erosion and install native plant buffers. 483 linear feet of shoreline were treated with rock rip rap, coconut fiber biologs, shoreline plantings, or other techniques. The result is 5.9 fewer pounds of phosphorus and 4.8 fewer tons of sediment entering the lake each year.

Lake George water quality is a priority. The lake is heavily used by the public due to a large county park and many homes on its shores, and good water quality. That water quality has been experiencing a slow decline over time. Projects such as these help maintain water quality and also add near-shore habitat that benefits fish and other wildlife. The recently installed projects are further intended to be demonstrations of lake-friendly landscaping for other shoreline homeowners. 

The six project sites were selected from amongst 34 homeowner who expressed interest. Sites were chosen based on degree of erosion, benefit to the lake, and other factors. Funding was from a Watershed Based Implementation Funding grant to the Anoka Conservation District with matching funds from the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization and landowners.

  1128 Hits


Minor erosion at the toe of slope exposed during low water. If the erosion is addressed early, larger bank failures in the future may be avoided.

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. 

  823 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!

  1937 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/

  1240 Hits

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. 

  1410 Hits