Conservation groups, lake associations and local governments can help improve fish habitat and water quality through a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grants program.
The DNR's Aquatic Habitat Program provides cost-share grants for the purpose of improving and protecting lakeshore habitat and water quality. Since 1998, the program has funded more than 330 shoreline restorations and provided technical guidance to thousands of citizens and local units of government.
The shoreline that surrounds Ramsey County's Lake Phalen is an example of an aquatic habitat restoration. Since 2001, two of the three miles of the lake's shoreline have been replanted to native plants as part of an ongoing effort to stabilize shorelines, improve aesthetics and create habitat for fish and wildlife.
"It's one of the largest shoreline ecological restorations we have funded," said John Hiebert, DNR warm water lakes consultant. "It's a great place for lake and river shoreline owners to envision what's possible for their own property."
Lake Phalen is located in St. Paul and Maplewood in Phalen Regional Park just east of Arcade Street. A hiking and biking trail rims the lake. The restoration took root when the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and the city of St. Paul developed a comprehensive ecological restoration plan and applied to the DNR for funding. The lake was in poor condition – banks crumbling into the lake, pockets of extensive erosion and an abundance of weeds and invasive plant and tree species. The watershed district and city worked together with many volunteers and school groups to restore the aquatic and shoreline habitat.
Lake Phalen was chosen for restoration because it had the right mix of willing landowners, featured a diverse and committed set of project partners, and was at a highly visible site. It has more than one-half million visitors using the park grounds on an annual basis, including the recreational trails that encircle the lake.
Hiebert hopes that these kinds of projects will encourage landowners to conserve and restore habitat on their own property. "There is a lot of critical aquatic habitat on private lands. We hope that providing good examples of good habitat will lead to more habitat improvement projects being done all over the state."
To find out more about the program and funding opportunities, visit the DNR's website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/grants/habitat/shoreland.html .