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Shoreline project targets property on Perkins Lake

Staff with the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District planted more than 4,000 plants along 300 feet of Perkins Lake as part of a shoreline restoration project. The project was paid for, in part, with grant money from Minnesota Clean Water Fund.

MORRIS -- Although there isn’t a lot of lakeshore in Stevens County, there are opportunities for property owners to make long-term improvements using available state grants.

This month, staff with the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District finished up a lakeshore restoration project on Perkins lake using more than 4,000 native plants along 300 feet of lakeshore in front of West Pomme Lodge.

Thanks to buy-in from property owners this project marked the first time that SWCD was able to use money from the Clean Water Fund, a portion of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008, for a lakeshore improvement in the county, said District Administrator Matt Solemsaas.

Planning for the project got started last fall when Solemsaas met with owners Jon Backman and Peter, Ben and Jackie Hentges to discuss working on a project.

“We looked at the shoreline and it wasn’t in terrible shape, but it could use some protection,” said Solemsaas.

SWCD worked with a shoreline specialist to develop a design and an estimate for the restoration project and applied for a Clean Water Fund grant. Grant money can be used to pay for 75 percent of the cost, while property owners cover the remaining 25 percent.

Planting native grasses and flowers along the shoreline will help cut down on runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen into the lake, which can add extra chemicals and contribute to algae growth during the summer.

“Most people have grass right down to the edge, which is the worst thing you can do to the lake – any kind of chemical runs off right into the lake,” said Solemsaas.

The project will also help stabilize the shoreline to prevent erosion. Solemsaas said a native plants restoration is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than the types of rock riprap that are often installed along degrading shorelines.

“For the most part, all of the pictures we’ve seen from Perkins Lake back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, we’ve lost a tremendous amount of shoreline,” said Backman. “We want to protect our shoreline and we want to do what we can do to protect the lake.”

Shoreline in front of the property has been so degraded that when they were prepping the shoreline for the planting, they had to remove some concrete footings from the lake shed that, at one point, had held up a shed near the water, said Backman.

Planting in the fall will give the plants a chance to get established without much competition from weeds, but it will take about three years for the shoreline to fill in completely.

After seeing staff from SWCD working on the shoreline in September, other property owners in the area have expressed interest in applying for grant money for their own projects next spring, said Solemsaas.

“We don’t have a lot of lakeshore in Stevens County, but what we do have we should protect,” said Solemsaas. “You’ve got to take your hat off to these guys for stepping up and being the first.”

Previously, SWCD has utilized Clean Water Fund money to build rain gardens in the area, which are also paid for with a cost share arrangement.

Anyone interested in learning more about a rain garden or shoreline restoration project should contact the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District at 320-589-4886 Ext. 3.