Duluth Stream Corps Restores Shorelines, Reduces Sedimentation and Pollution

The loss of riparian vegetation resulted in soil erosion, subjecting Duluth’s streams to sedimentation and pollution. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

The loss of riparian vegetation resulted in soil erosion, subjecting Duluth’s streams to sedimentation and pollution. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

 

Project Summary: Duluth landowners volunteered to provide access to their streamside property for restoration and naturalization projects, resulting in 22 miles of restored stream shores and improved water and habitat quality.

 

Project Name: Duluth Stream Corps Restores Shorelines

 

Location: Duluth, Minnesota

 

 

 

Description: Duluth, Minn., has many streams and rivers that provide habitat for fish and wildlife species and eventually flow into Lake Superior. Unfortunately, shoreline development and the degradation of river banks are threatening these aquatic habitats. Riparian vegetation helps filter out sediment and pollutants from stormwater flowing into streams. It also provides shade to keep aquatic habitats cool, and its roots keep soil compact to prevent erosion. As these riparian buffers have disappeared, Duluth’s streams have been subject to significant sedimentation, pollution, and heating, severely degrading both water quality and wildlife habitat.

 

The Duluth Stream Corps provided labor, materials, and expertise to landowners interested in restoring their shoreline property. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

The Duluth Stream Corps provided labor, materials, and expertise to landowners interested in restoring their shoreline property. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

Thanks to several grants, primarily through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Community Action Duluth developed a Stream Corps program, hiring and training 14 un- or underemployed Duluth residents to work with local landowners to restore shorelines and riparian areas. Interested landowners with streamside property could ask the Stream Corps to help develop a naturalization and restoration project specific to their property. The Stream Corps then provided the labor, expertise, and materials (with some material costs borne by the landowner) to undertake the project. The most common type of work done was planting native trees and shrubs along shorelines; however the crews also helped landowners remove debris and invasive species, plant native wildflowers, and install rain gardens. To protect newly-planted trees from deer and other browsers, crews also installed 8-foot fencing around the trees. Following project completion, the Stream Corps advised the landowner on how to maintain the restoration work.

 

Native trees and shrubs were planted along shorelines to restore river banks and prevent soil erosion. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

Native trees and shrubs were planted along shorelines to restore river banks and prevent soil erosion. Photo courtesy of Community Action Duluth.

The original grant funding covered the program through the fall of 2013. During that time, the Stream Corps worked with 175 landowners to plant 18,177 trees and shrubs, restoring 22 miles of shoreline. This has improved the water quality for both wildlife and Duluth’s residents. Shoreline vegetation also provides shading and leaf and branch litter to improve aquatic habitats, and provides shelter and food for riparian habitats. These restoration projects have also increased local property values by improving the aesthetics of the landowners’ properties. Community Action Duluth is currently hoping to secure additional funding allowing them to continue the Stream Corps program.

 

Approximate cost of project: $655,625, most of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Additionally, many of the materials, trees, and man-hours were donated by several organizations and individuals.

 

Resource challenges addressed: Stream bank erosion and development, loss of riparian buffers, sedimentation, loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

 

Key partners (public and private): St. Louis River Alliance, Firelight Inn, Inter City Oil, North Shore Cottages, the City of Duluth, The Duluth Energy Efficiency Program, Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Freshwater Future, Natural Resource Research Institute, Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network, Tech Soup, Wells Fargo, CN, and Minnesota Sea Grant

 

Types of jobs created: Equipment operators and general laborers.

 

Results and accomplishments: The program has planted 18,177 trees and shrubs along 22 miles of shorelines. This helps filter out sediments and pollutants from Duluth’s streams and rivers, and improves water quality for both people and wildlife. Shoreline vegetation also provides shading for aquatic habitats, contributes leaf and branch litter for aquatic habitats, and provides food and shelter for riparian habitats. These restoration projects have also increased local property values by improving the aesthetics of the properties of participating landowners. The Stream Corps program provided training and employment for 14 un- or underemployed Duluth residents.

 

Website: http://communityactionduluth.org/streamcorps/index.html

 

Originally published March 15, 2016

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