Lakeshore Restoration

What is wrong with some sand falling into the lake?  There is already a lot of sand on the lake bed.

When we were kids, we loved to slide down a steep sandy bank.

The trouble is that particles of sand carry phosphorus into the lake.

Adding even very small amounts of phosphorus to lake water promotes plant growth–including algae which can foul the water in sufficient concentration.  Algae need phosphorus to grow and the sand carries it right into the water.

One pound of phosphorus added to a lake can result in up to 500 lbs. of wet algae production.

Another problem with sand, many fish need a rocky bottom to which their eggs can stick.  Particles of sand can completely cover those rocky beds.  With no good place to lay eggs the fish population decreases.

The result is that sand carries phosphorus which promotes lake-clogging plant growth, and sand covers fish spawning beds which results in a decreased fish population.

Rain water running over our roofs, driveways, and lawns runs to the lakes carrying sediment, sand, salt, oil, driveway chemicals, lawn pesticides, and the thousands of chemicals that man has synthesized.

It’s better if the water is made to run through a plant barrier which catches sediment, and better if the water first gets absorbed and filtered by plants and earth where natural processes and bacteria can breakdown the chemicals before the water eventually reaches the lake.

Filtering water through plants is so effective that is is done in certain sewage systems. Running sewage into  a bed of shallow water plants  purifies the water using by the plants and natural  bacteria in their natural setting.

We can protect our lakes by reestablishing plants on the shoreline. 

It’s really simple, an adequate strip of shoreline plants can slow water runoff and absorb and detoxify the chemicals contained in the water.

The simplest and least expensive way is just to quit mowing the shoreline. Let Nature take over. After all she was doing a very good job of it long before your cabin was built there.  She still knows more about how to do it than we do.

If you want to add some colorful native plants, that can be done also.  Advice is easy to find. Start with your local Soil and Water Conservation District, the DNR, or the University of Minnesota Extension Division.

Recently WAPOA has sponsored or helped with several projects that are intended to stop shoreline bank erosion and projects that promote a natural plant barrier between our developed lawns and the lake.

Eroded collapsing bank on Rollie's Island Whitefish Lake

Eroded collapsing bank on Rollie’s Island Whitefish Lake








Eroding collapsing bank on Rollies Island on Whitefish Lake. The first part of the restoration is barely visible at the waterline.

WAPOA volunteers helped the sponsoring Big Island group on the restoration. Many volunteer for both organizations.

Volunteers place bundles of wattles made from willow stems gathered locally

Volunteers place bundles of wattles made from willow stems gathered locally










The volunteers placed willow wattles on the bank. The wattles were woven from willow stems gathered locally.

In addition, heavy burlap was staked to prevent erosion and  native plants were placed in cutout holes. Squares of native grasses were also planted.

Bank 6 weeks after planting

Bank 6 weeks after planting











What a difference! Six weeks later plants and grasses are flourishing.

We discovered with a previous project how important watering is.

If there is not enough rain we water the bank regularly with water pumped right from the lake. The pump and fire hose are brought out by boat.

The eroding banks in parts of Whitefish were caused years ago when the water levels were raised for logging.

More projects will follow

WAPOA is also encouraging landowners to start restoring their own banks, even those with gentle slopes.

Restoration need not be as complicated as this.  One can simply start by not doing something, Easy to not do something?

Just stop mowing your lawn clear to the water.  Instead let the vegetation grow.  You will be surprised at the plants that appear.

Some are from seeds long dormant. One can add native plants too if desired.

A barrier of natural plants between your lawn and the lake will greatly decrease the sediment and chemicals running from your lawn to the lake.   Less phosphorus enters the lake.  Water will be clearer and there will be less algae.