Northern Minnesota River has Stronger Riverbanks, Less Erosion

Project Summary: Installing fallen trees, re-establishing flood plains, and planting new trees along Minnesota’s Flute Reed River helped stabilize the river, reduce sedimentation, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.
Flooding on the Flute Reed River in Minnesota can be extreme in the spring, causing erosion along the banks of the river. Floodwaters were transferring huge amounts of phosphorus-rich sediment into Lake Superior. Photo courtesy of Rick Schubert, Flute Reed Watershed Partnership.

Flooding on the Flute Reed River in Minnesota can be extreme in the spring, causing erosion along the banks of the river. Floodwaters were transferring huge amounts of phosphorus-rich sediment into Lake Superior. Photo courtesy of Rick Schubert, Flute Reed Watershed Partnership.

Project name: Flute Reed Riverbank Stabilization

Location: near Hovland, Minnesota

Description: The Flute Reed River runs from northern Minnesota through the town of Hovland into Lake Superior. Over time the river began scouring the riverbanks and eroding sediment into the stream. The distinctive red clay along the stream contains high levels of phosphorus, so not only does the sediment begin to clog the stream and make it inhospitable to fish and other aquatic wildlife, but it also contributes to high nutrient levels in Lake Superior, which can cause algal blooms. Preventing the sediment from entering the Flute Reed and increasing the overall health of the river became a priority for the people along the river who formed the Flute Reed Partnership

To allow the land to naturally recover from past erosion, the Flute Reed River is contained to a smaller streambed while crews install logs and soil, creating a stronger riverbank, less susceptible to erosion. A stronger riverbank will decrease sediment entering Lake Superior. Photo courtesy of Rick Schubert, Flute Reed Watershed Partnership.

To allow the land to naturally recover from past erosion, the Flute Reed River is contained to a smaller streambed while crews install logs and soil, creating a stronger riverbank, less susceptible to erosion. A stronger riverbank will decrease sediment entering Lake Superior. Photo courtesy of Rick Schubert, Flute Reed Watershed Partnership.

Watershed Group. The partnership, started by Rick Schubert, began in 2006 and within a few years began collecting data to assess which banks along the river were losing the most sediment, and monitoring water quality throughout the stream. These two pieces of information were used to create a plan to stabilize the stream banks, make flood plains that could hold water but that wouldn’t increase erosion, and restore habitat for fish and wildlife along the river. In 2010 the Partnership received Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding and was able to move forward more rapidly with their plans for the Flute Reed River.

Approximate cost of project: $540,603 from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and a $6,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to plant trees

Resource challenge addressed: Extreme erosion, sediment build-up in the river, high nutrient levels, and aquatic habitat degradation

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Flute Reed Partnership, Cook County Soil and Water

The riverbank stabilization project installed floodplain areas into Flute Reed River, like the one pictured to the right, which help slow floodwaters while plants hold the soil in place. Photo courtesy of Kerrie Berg, Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The riverbank stabilization project installed floodplain areas into Flute Reed River, like the one pictured to the right, which help slow floodwaters while plants hold the soil in place. Photo courtesy of Kerrie Berg, Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Conservation District, South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, LaBoda Grading Inc., Stark Rainwater Harvesting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Northern Bedrock Conservation Corps, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Types of jobs created: Landscape architects, digital mapping experts, heavy equipment operators, grading truck operators, and general laborers

Results and accomplishments: By September 2013, four areas along the riverbanks of the Flute Reed had been stabilized by adding large logs that slowed the flow of the water, deflecting it away from the eroding banks. The logs were covered in soil and plantings to help anchor them in place and absorb flood waters, while also providing habitat for wildlife along the river. In addition, over 5,000 tree seedlings were planted to anchor the soil in place. Within the coming years, the forest should begin to reclaim the eroded riverbanks.

The Flute Reed River project was documented in a short video in the hopes that future collaborative relationships will be inspired by the work shown here. Video courtesy of the State of Minnesota.

Website: http://bit.ly/1mcTF1g

Originally published on: April 21, 2014

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