Minnehaha Creek Watershed District grants give homeowners opportunities to protect water

(Sun Sailor staff photo by Paige Kieffer) Rick and Jeanne Carter, of Orono, added in a shoreline buffer earlier this summer to help prevent runoff into Lake Minnetonka. The Carters were assisted by a grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District for the landscaping project.  (Sun Sailor staff photo by Paige Kieffer) Rick and Jeanne Carter, of Orono, added in a shoreline buffer earlier this summer to help prevent runoff into Lake Minnetonka. The Carters were assisted by a grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District for the landscaping project.
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(Sun Sailor staff photo by Paige Kieffer) Rick and Jeanne Carter, of Orono, added in a shoreline buffer earlier this summer to help prevent runoff into Lake Minnetonka. The Carters were assisted by a grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District for the landscaping project.

Orono homeowner creates shoreline buffer to minimize runoff

By Paige Kieffer
[email protected]

During the past six years, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has awarded grants to more than 250 homeowners for water friendly landscaping practices in landscaping projects.

(Sun Sailor staff photos by Paige Kieffer)
The Carter’s shoreline buffer includes native plants that are friendly to pollinators and attract monarch butterflies.

In addition, the district has funded projects ranging from rain gardens, permeable pavers, shoreline buffers and shoreline restorations at five condominium and townhome associations and about a dozen churches and schools across the watershed.

“We’ve funded numerous projects across the district for a number of years,” said Telly Mamayek, district communications and education director. “Grants are a way to incentivized behavior change on the land. It’s a way to help people take action towards having cleaner water.”

Mamayek said that the grant program is currently on hold, but district officials hope it will open again in 2018 so more homeowners can benefit from the program.

“By building a rain garden, installing permeable pavers or restoring a shoreline, people are making tangible benefits for our water quality and that’s what we want to encourage,” Mamayek said. “Often times, to make these projects possible it requires a little bit of financial help. As we see more and more people doing this across the watershed there’s a normalizing phenomenon. When people see their neighbors put in eco-friendly landscaping and talk it, it creates a snowball effect across the district.”

Rick and Jeanne Carter were one of the homeowners who were awarded a landscaping grant.
The Carters live on County Road 19 in Orono. Their home is situated on Lafayette Bay on Lake Minnetonka near the Narrows Channel.

They were awarded a grant to create a shoreline buffer that would prevent runoff into the lake.

“We always talked about doing some shoreline restoration because when we bought our house it had a conventional yard where the grass went right up to the rock ledge,” said Rick Carter. “The main purpose of the shoreline buffer is it acts as a filter for containments in the yard. Water tends to runoff of the grass in a yard almost as well as a hard surface. People think grass absorbs water, but it really doesn’t. The ground is usually so hard packed that the water runoff and along with it fertilizer, weed killer and especially phosphorus runs straight into the lake. This causes the problems with water clarity, weed growth and hurts the fish population. Having a buffer can’t completely prevent that but it reduces it quite a bit.”

(Sun Sailor staff photos by Paige Kieffer)
The Carter’s shoreline buffer includes native plants.

The Carter’s were referred to the watershed district grant program by Life’s a Beach Shoreline Services Owner Josh Leddy.

They hired landscape designers from Wetland Habitat Restorations, who evaluated the property and came up with a design plan that was submitted as part of the watershed district’s application process.
Once the grant was approved, crews began work on the shoreline buffer that was created from May to June this year. The grant covered 50 percent of the costs of the project.

“The shoreline buffer has had a lot of benefits,” Carter said. “My wife and I were interested in the environmental aspect of it and how good it looks. We’ve seen a fairly large increase in bees and monarchs in our yard and the plants have been very beautiful. A shoreline buffer is also said to be one of the biggest deterrent of geese going your yard. Once I heard about all these incentives it was no brainer.”

The Carters also recruited their neighbors to also apply for a grant, and it was also approved.
Carter’s shoreline buffer runs 150 feet long and is 10 to 15 feet deep. The buffer continues into the neighbor’s shoreline by 75 to 100 feet.

The buffer includes native plants that have deep roots that absorb a lot of water. The plants are also bee friendly pollinators and attract monarch butterflies.

Some of the plants include swamp milkweed, ox eye sunflower, butterfly weed, hop sedge, Canada anemone, fox sedge, obedient plant, beebalm, blue flag iris and New England aster.

“I would strongly suggest other lake owners do this,” said Carter. “It was something we were always motivated to do. We never really saw a downside to doing this. It really reduces your costs of maintaining your yard, improves the quality of the water, it’s beautiful and it attracts wildlife and repels geese. It’s a win-win option.”

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