Northern Minnesota River
has Stronger Riverbanks, Less Erosion
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.
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 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.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Extreme erosion
- Sediment build-up in the river
- Unhealthy nutrient levels
- Aquatic habitat degradation
FLUTE REED RIVERBANK STABILIZATION
Location: Hovland, Minn.
Approximate cost: $540,603 from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and a $6,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Key partners: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Flute Reed Partnership, Cook County Soil and Water 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.