Shoreland Homeowner's Guide to Lake Stewardship

Shoreland Homeowner's

Guide to Lake Stewardship

Congratulations on owning shoreland property in Cass County.

Whether you are a full time or seasonal resident, living by the water

provides a special opportunity to participate in water-related recreation,

such as boating, swimming, or fishing; to observe wildlife in its

natural habitat; or simply enjoy the beauty of watching a sunset over

the lake and experience the serenity and sense of well-being experienced

around water and nature.

When you own shoreland you do have certain riparian (near the water) rights and privileges,

such as the right to put a dock out to a navigable depth; to take water for domestic

and agricultural purposes; and to fish, boat, hunt and swim. But, these rights must be

exercised in compliance with local rules and regulations and those of the State of

Minnesota. For example, there are limits on the size of docks; regulations about construction

and disturbing land in the shoreland zone (within 1,320 feet of a lake or river);

removal of aquatic plants; placement of wells; and maintenance of septic systems.

These rules are in place for the benefit of your health and safety and the health of the

adjacent lake or stream.

Along with those rights also comes the responsibility to protect, improve, and enhance

the quality of the water for your enjoyment and that of future generations to come, keeping

in mind that the water itself is a public resource for everyone to enjoy. That?s called

stewardship: the individual responsibility to manage one?s life and property with

regard for the rights of others. The lake is a living ecosystem and part of the larger

ecosystem of all living plants and animals to which we also belong.

This Guide will provide you with basic information on good lake stewardship, which if practiced

by you and collectively by others around the lake and in the watershed, will keep the

lake healthy to protect your investment in shoreland property (healthy waters=higher property

values), your enjoyment of the lake, and also preserve its ecological integrity.

What We Do On the Land Matters

Water quality is primarily dependent on what happens on the land around the lake, along

the river, or within the watershed. It?s the runoff from the land, and the pollution that is

carried with it, that can determine the quality of the water. While the land activity in the

watershed?the land area that drains to a lake or stream?contributes pollution to the

lake, the shoreland zone is the lake?s first line of defense. What you and your neighbors

do?or don?t do?on your shoreland property can have a significant impact on the quality

of the lake. Managing water quality means appropriately managing the land use around

the lake to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the lake.

In this Guide, we?ll look at two primary ways you, the shoreland homeowner, can manage

your property to protect water quality. They are:

1. Curbing pollution at the source; and

2. Reducing, capturing, and cleansing runoff.

Proper lawn care, pet waste disposal, and use of household products; shoreline erosion

control; and septic system maintenance can help curb pollution. Runoff that can pick up

pollution and carry it to the lake can be reduced by minimizing hard surfaces on your

property and limiting clearing and grading. It can also be captured and cleansed so it

doesn?t reach the lake by using shoreland vegetative buffers and by redirecting it to rain

barrels and rain gardens. Let?s learn more.


Curb Pollution: Reduce

Phosphorus and Other Pollutants


Nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus are the nutrients necessary for plant growth.

Phosphorus is the key nutrient needed for aquatic plant and algae growth. When excessive

phosphorus reaches the lake, it fuels the overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae,

those microscopic organisms that give water a greenish tinge and can cause blue-green,

toxic scums along the shore. Excessive plant and algae growth decreases water clarity,

interferes with the recreational use of the lake, and diminishes oxygen for fish in the

water, generally causing declining water quality.

Natural rainfall contains high amounts of phosphorus, which we can?t control, but we can

control our own shoreland practices that can contribute phosphorous to the lake.

Excessive phosphorus can get into lakes from shoreland properties in a number of ways, including:

- excessive application to and runoff

from lawns;

- decomposition of leaves and other

plant material;

- erosion of soil, which has phosphorus

particles attached to it;

- improper human and pet waste management,

both of which contain high

amounts of phosphorus; and the

- use of household products high in


One pound of phosphorus can feed the

growth of over 500 pounds of algae.



Apply Fertilizer Sparingly and and Use Zero-Phosphorus Lawn

Fertilizer?It?s the Law in Minnesota



By law since 2005, Minnesota homeowners cannot use fertilizers containing phosphorus,

except for exemptions for new lawns or when a soil test indicates a need for phosphorus.

In much of our area, soils are naturally high in phosphorus so lawns generally don?t need extra phosphorus.

When shopping for fertilizer, buy a brand that has a middle

number of zero i.e. 22-0-15. The law did not prohibit

retailers from selling phosphorous fertilizers, and even

though most retailers are carrying more zero phosphorus

fertilizers, it?s up to you to make sure you comply with

the law.

If you have left over phosphorus fertilizer, using it on the garden is a good way to dispose of it.

Other herbicide and pesticide cautions to follow:

- Eliminate the use of fertilizers near water or wetlands.

- Before you consider fertilizing your lawn, aerate it

first and see if that improves its health.

- Use the minimum amount needed to replenish the

soil and apply at the right time of year, usually spring

and early fall. Water lightly after fertilizing to ensure

absorption by the roots before a heavy rainfall.

- Sweep fertilizer that has spilled on hard surfaces back onto the lawn to prevent runoff.

Keep lawn healthy to avoid the need for herbicide applications. When necessary,

use the least toxic and most degradable herbicide and follow directions carefully.

Never use near the lake.

- Remove dandelions and other unwanted plants from your lawn using hand-tools

instead of chemical applications. If you feel you must use a herbicide for control, do

not apply it to the whole lawn. Instead, use an applicator which allows you to direct

a small spray towards each unwanted plant.


Keep Grass Clippings, Leaves, and Washed Up

Aquatic Plant Material Out of the Lake

Grass clipping, leaves, and aquatic plant material that wash up on shore all contain

phosphorus, which is released when the plant material decomposes. To prevent

phosphorus from getting into the lake:

- Use a mulching lawn mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn as natural


- Collect and compost leaves and clippings, or haul them away from the lake to a

disposal site.

- Rake up aquatic plants, leaves, and other organic matter on the shoreland and

dispose away from the lake. Hint: It makes great mulch on the garden which can

later be worked in as a soil amendment.

- Do not burn leaves near the lake; it destroys the organic matter releasing the phosphorus,

which could be washed into the lake.

Locate Fire Pits Away from the Shoreland and Dispose of Ash

The leftover ash from burning wood is very high in phosphorus. If the fire pit is located

near the lake, rain can wash the ashes into the lake.

- Locate the fire pit at least 50 feet away from the lake; and,

- Remove ashes from the fire pit to prevent the nutrient-loaded ashes from being

blown or washed into the lake.

Properly Dispose of Pet Waste

Improper disposal of pet waste not only jeopardizes water quality, but your health as

well. Pet waste contains phosphorus and may contain disease causing organisms,

which, if washed into the water, can make it unsafe for swimming.

- Pick up pet waste in the yard or near the shore and dispose of it properly.

Use Phosphorus-free Household Products

Read labels carefully and select bio-degradable, non-phosphorus dishwashing

detergents, and reduce the use of commercial cleaners. Learn about and use natural,

non-toxic household alternatives.

Practice Low-Impact Boating

To reduce the pollution impact of motorized watercraft on the lake:

- When fueling the boat, take precautions not to overfill the fuel tank. If you do spill,

wipe it up with a rag, do not hose into the water.

- Boat slowly; motors stir up sediments releasing nutrients that can lead to

deterioration of water quality?a 50-horsepower motor operated full throttle can stir

the water column to a depth of 15 feet.

- Keep your motor well-tuned; use four-cycle motors.

- Inspect your boat and trailer to avoid transporting aquatic invasive species, like

Eurasian watermilfoil, Curlyleaf pondweed, or zebra mussels into the lake if you?ve

had your boat in another waterbody.



Curb Pollution: Inspect

and Maintain Your Septic System

Most homes in shoreland areas rely on Subsurface Sewage

Treatment Systems (SSTS), commonly known as the septic

system. Your septic system, if designed, installed, and maintained

properly, will effectively treat wastewater before it is

returned to the environment to protect public health and prevent

pollution of a nearby lake or river.

Understand How Your Septic System Works

Understanding your system is essential to proper operation

and maintenance. The basic components of most systems

are the:

_The Septic Tank receives the wastewater from the

household plumbing. In the tank, the solids are separated

from the liquid. Here, naturally occurring bacteria decomposes

food particles and human waste and the remaining

solids settle to the bottom until they are pumped out on a

regular basis. The tank will have an inspection pipe for

monitoring of the tank and a manhole for access when

pumped. The size of the tank is based on the home?s

potential water use and types of appliances installed.

When the capacity of the tank is reached the excess liquid

flows, or is pumped, over into the drainfield.

_The Soil Treatment System (drainfield), which is typically

a network of perforated pipes surrounded by small

rock and soil. The liquid, which contains pathogens (disease-

causing organisms), nutrients such as phosphorus,

and fine solids, is cleansed naturally by bacteria as it

percolates down through the soil. The design of the treatment

system (trench, mound, etc.) is based on the soil

conditions on your property, which must allow for at least

three feet of unsaturated soil for the wastewater to percolate

through for proper treatment. The correct type of

system needed for your property will be determined by a

state-licensed septic designer. Where gravity flow is not

enough to move the liquids from the tank to the soil

treatment system, pumps or lift stations are common?

this is typical with mound systems.


What Causes a Septic System to Fail?

Septic system failure is most commonly the result of:

- Improper design or installation of the system;

- Overuse of water in the home; and/or

- Improper maintenance.

When your system, or a neighbor?s system fails, untreated

wastewater could come in contact with people, causing a

public health hazard, or enter the groundwater and eventually

the lake, adding pollution that can contribute to

increased algae and plant growth.

What are the signs of a failing system?

- Sewage backup into the house or slow toilet flushing,

- Frozen pipes or soil treatment areas,

- System alarms sounding,

- Wet and/or black areas around a septic mound,

- Algal blooms and excessive plant growth in the water

near shore,

- Sewage odors indoors or outdoors,

- Water or sewage surfacing in the yard or a nearby

low spot, or

- High levels of nitrates or coliform bacteria in well

water tests.


If you have a problem:

- Contact Cass County Environmental Services for advice

and/or licensed septic inspector.

- If the drainfield or household pipes are not clogged, have

the system pumped for both solids and liquids as a

temporary measure.

- If there is surface pooling of wastewater, fence off the area

to prevent contact with humans or pets.



Properly Operate and Maintain Your System

Proper operation and maintenance will extend the life of

your system for many years and prevent costly repairs.

_ Pump the Tank Regularly

Have a licensed professional pump the solids (floating

scum and sludge) that have accumulated from the septic

tank every one to three years?the more use, the more

often pumping is needed. Make sure they pump through

the manhole. While garbage disposal use is not recommended

with septic systems, pump annually if you are

using one. Failure to remove the solids can cause them to

enter the drainfield, which can result in expensive repair or

replacement. For licensed and certified septic system

maintenance services, refer to the yellow pages under

septic tanks and systems-cleaning.

If you have a problem:

- Contact Cass County Environmental Services for advice

and/or licensed septic inspector.

- If the drainfield or household pipes are not clogged, have

the system pumped for both solids and liquids as a

temporary measure.

- If there is surface pooling of wastewater, fence off the area

to prevent contact with humans or pets.

Source: University of MN Extension Protecting Our Waters Series, #2

Page 5

_ Practice Water Conservation

Too much water flowing into the tank will cause the tank to

back up and lead to ineffective treatment of wastewater. To

prevent this:

- Repair all leaky faucets, fixtures, and appliances.

- Install low water-use fixtures and appliances (especially

toilets and shower heads).

- Do not empty roof drains and sump pump water into

the septic system.

- Wash only full loads of clothing and dishes, and

spread out water use, such as laundry, throughout the

day and week. Consider front loading machines; they

use less water.

- Reduce the length of showers and the number of toilet

flushings, especially during high use periods.

- Reroute water softener discharge water out of the

septic system.

- Do not hook floor drains or drain tile into the septic


_ Limit What Goes Down the Drain

- Do not put household cleaners, paint, solvents, medications,

and other chemicals down the drain.

- Limit the use of antibacterial products. As the name

suggests, they can reduce the amount of working

bacteria in the septic tank.

- Use only the recommended amounts of liquid nonphosphorus

detergents and cleaners.

- Prevent food particles, grease, lint, coffee grounds,

plastics, and other non-degradable solids from getting

into the system.

- Use single-ply toilet paper for the best decomposition.

_ Do Not Use System Additives

It is not necessary to use starters, feeders, cleaners, or

other septic additives to enhance the performance of your

system. If your system is properly maintained and operated,

it will operate at maximum performance with the use of

naturally occurring bacteria.

_ Protect Your Drainfield

Compacting or obstructing the soil over the treatment area

can cause malfunctioning of the drain field. To protect it:

- Keep heavy vehicles off the drainfield.

- Maintain vegetative cover, but do not plant trees or

shrubs on the drainfield because the roots may penetrate

and clog the distribution system.

- Mow the area, but do not fertilize or water.

- Reroute roof drains and drain tile away from the


Protect Your System from

Freezing in the Winter

Common causes of septic system freezing during the winter

can be lack of snow cover, extreme cold, compacted snow,

irregular use of the system, leaking plumbing fixtures, pipes

not draining properly, or a water-logged system.

What to do if the system freezes? Unplug your pump

and call a septic system professional. Do not add

antifreeze, additives, or continuously run water to try to

unthaw the system.

To prevent freezing, follow these general guidelines:

- Fix any leaking plumbing or appliances prior to winter.

- In the fall, leave the grass longer over the tank and

drainfield for better insulation.

- Add a layer of hay or straw mulch (8-12 inches) over

the pipes, tank, and soil treatment area.

- Keep ATVs and snowmobiles off the drainfield.

- Spread hot water use (laundry, showers, dishwasher)

out over the day and week. If you?ll be gone for

extended periods, consider having someone stop by

to run hot water regularly.

- High efficiency furnaces, water softeners, and iron filters

have the potential to cause problems in the winter

because of slow and/or periodic discharges of

water. For suggested precautions, see:


- Talk with a professional before installing heat tapes or

tank heaters.

Cass County Requirements

Who regulates? The design, inspection, and installation of

septic systems (SSTS) are regulated by Cass County and

must be done by professionals licensed by the state. Lists

of licensed professionals and permits for septic system

installation can be obtained from the Cass County Environmental

Services Department or online at: http://septic.umn.


What records are required? All septic systems must

have a Certificate of Compliance indicating they meet the

Cass County SSTS requirements, sometimes referred to

as ?up-to-code.? A Certificate is good for five years from

the date of original installation, and must be renewed

every three years thereafter.

When are inspections required? If applying for a building

permit for new construction, a compliant septic system is

required. A building permit for any addition to current buildings,

including a deck or garage?attached or nonattached,

requires a current Certificate of Compliance for

the septic system. If one is not currently on record or it is

not current, an inspection of the septic system will be

required and, if the system is found to be noncompliant,

modification or replacement of the system may be necessary

before a building permit is issued.

What about property transfers? A Certificate of

Compliance is required before a title transfer can occur on

any shoreland property with a septic system. If the system

is not compliant, it must be brought into compliance, or an

agreement must be filed to update/escrow for later compliance,

before occupancy and title transfer to new owner.

Call the Cass County ESD for questions about septic

system requirements.


Reduce Runoff

What is runoff?

Snow melt or rainwater that does not soak into the ground and instead runs off hard surfaces

such as roofs, driveways, sidewalks, and compacted soils or washes off lawns and

steep slopes is called runoff. It is also referred to as stormwater. When runoff reaches

the lake, it can carry with it nutrients, eroded soil sediments, toxic materials, bacteria and

other pollutants that can be detrimental to water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.

Reducing runoff decreases the pollutants that can eventually reach the lake.

Managing stormwater on your property so it soaks into the ground (infiltrates) rather than

running off is the best way to reduce runoff and filter out pollutants before they reach the

lake. Hard or paved-over surfaces do not allow the absorption of water. Any green

space, including gardens, trees, shrubs or landscaping allows water to infiltrate slowly

down into the soil and roots.

Practice Good Lawn Management

Reduce the Amount of Lawn

Bringing the suburban lawn mentality to the lake has also brought more opportunities to

degrade the quality of our lakes. Limit the amount of lawn and keep as much natural

vegetation as possible, or replant natural vegetation?especially near the lake. Not only

will you reduce runoff, you?ll reduce the amount of yard work, freeing you up to recreate


Maintain a Healthy Lawn to Absorb More Water

- Mow to a height of two to three inches; mow when dry to prevent clumping. Taller

grass provides shade for better root growth, which helps with water absorption.

- Consider replacing some of the grass in your lawn area with clover, native grasses, or

other groundcovers that don?t need watering.

- If watering is necessary, water deeply, but infrequently, to encourage deep root growth.

Water with lake water. (Hint: use the nutrients in the lake to make a healthy lawn instead

of frequent fertilizer applications.) Water in the morning, not mid-day or evening.

- In hot weather, allow lawn grasses to go into a state of dormancy so that they require

less water and nutrient intake for survival. Water 1/4 to 1/2 inch every two or three

weeks to keep crowns from dehydrating beyond the point of recovery.

Maintain Natural Vegetation

Natural vegetation will naturally reduce runoff by holding back the water to provide time

for it to soak into the ground.

- When clearing your lot, minimize the removal of wooded areas, trees and low growing

shrubs. Their removal causes more rain to fall to the ground instead of landing on

leaves and branches.

- Grading large areas of land removes the natural depressions of land where water can

pond and soak in.

- Carefully landscape your yard near roads, driveways, and along the shoreline to direct

runoff away from the lake.

Make Friends With the Ice Ridge

Ice ridges are formed by the pushing action of the lake?s winter ice sheet against the

shore and can be more pronounced in years when there is little insulating snow cover.

Unless the ice ridge is impeding your use of the lake or access to your dock area, consider

making friends with the ice ridge and leave it alone. They are natural features of

lakeshore that have been forming for thousands of years. The ice ridge has many benefits

to the lake. It is a natural berm to protect the lake from runoff. Nutrients collect on the

landward side of the mound, producing fertile soil where trees and plants thrive and provide

roots systems to hold soil in place. They provide a natural form of shoreline protection.

If you want to remove an ice ridge, contact Cass County Environmental Services

before beginning work; a permit will be needed. See page 20 for specifics.

Precaution During Construction

To reduce runoff during construction projects, erosion and sediment containment is

required. If more than one acre of land is disturbed, an MPCA stormwater permit will be

required along with a stormwater management plan. Follow these temporary practices to

reduce construction runoff.

- Seed exposed areas with annual grass or mulch during long-term projects where

soils will be exposed for more than a couple of weeks; for small areas of dirt piles,

cover with plastic or a tarp.

- For large exposed stockpiles close to a ditch, stream, wetland or lake, build a berm

or install a silt fence to prevent sediment runoff. Berms are typically built about 3 feet

tall at the crest and 1.5 to 2 times the height in width. Stockpile material can be used

to build the berm; then stabilize it with shredded mulch.

- Install down slope perimeter control prior to soil disturbance. A silt fence installed to

manufacturer?s specifications or a stabilized top soil berm are two options.



Reduce Runoff: Curb Erosion


Any exposed soil can be washed away with stormwater. When soil washes into the lake,

it carries with it phosphorus?the desired nutrient for weed and algae growth?along with

debris and other toxic materials that may be on the land. It causes sediment build up in

the lake; increases turbidity after rain events, which interferes with normal lake functions;

and impacts fish and wildlife habitat. Degradation to water quality is a result. Curbing the

erosion of soil will reduce pollutants reaching the lake.

Monitor Construction or Renovation Projects

Have an erosion control plan and carefully monitor all construction or renovation projects

to ensure that soil and construction materials do not runoff the exposed soils.

- Properly dispose of all construction materials each day.

- Use nontoxic, biodegradable or recycled materials.

- Wash or clean any liquid materials in-doors or directly into a container.

- Install silt fences along the shoreland to capture any sediment runoff that might


- After construction, establish vegetation right away.

- Minimize land alteration around your construction projects to take advantage of

existing soil stability.

Stabilize the Soil in Steep Areas

The erosion potential on steep slopes and bluffs can be reduced by:

- Diverting water away from steep slopes by rerouting drainpipes and gutters. If diverting

water away from the bluff is impractical, it should be routed through a non-perforated

plastic drain pipe that outlets at the very bottom of the bluff into rock drainage.

- If you need a walkway to the shore, follow the natural contours of the slope to go

across or around the slope, or use steps when a walkway must go directly up and

down a slope, but minimize destruction of natural vegetation during construction.

- Keep the moisture- and nutrient-absorbing natural vegetation on steep slopes by

limiting clearing and grading.

- Replant vegetation on barren slopes.

- Create a view corridor through the trees with selective pruning for an excellent view

while maintaining the natural trees and shrubs.


Reduce Shoreland Erosion

If your shoreland is eroding away, stabilizing the shoreland will be necessary to reduce

erosion. Possible causes may include:

- fluctuating water levels,

- increased wave or wake action, ice pushes in the spring, or

- loss of natural vegetation to hold the soil in place.

Each shoreland situation is different. Consulting shoreland landscaping professionals,

the DNR Area Hydrologist, or the Soil and Water Conservation District is encouraged to

determine the best solution for your shoreline erosion situation.

Rip rap and retaining walls are usually not the best choice for stabilizing shoreland erosion.

They can negatively impact the lake by creating an unnatural barrier between

upland areas and the shoreland environment that destroys vegetative transition areas

and eliminates critical habitat for many species. Retaining walls deflect wave energy

back to the lake instead of diffusing it, which can undercut the base of the wall and

cause increased erosion at the ends making the water more turbid. Neither rip rap or

retaining walls will prevent ice ridges from forming?rock cannot withstand the up to

30,000 pounds of ice pressure per square inch. Natural shoreline vegetation is the best

protection from both wave erosion and ice heaves, and it?s less expensive and longer


Slow the Boat Down

Boat wakes can cause tremendous shoreland erosion, so boat slower. In shallow areas

(less than 15 feet), motor at slow-no-wake speeds (5 mph or less) to reduce the boat

wake and the consequent wave action that can erode your shoreline and other?s around

the lake. Observe all posted ?no-wake? and low-speed zones. For personal watercraft,

running at slow, no-wake speed within 150 feet of the shore is the law.

Boating slowly makes less wake, less noise, reduces pollution and is less disruptive to

wildlife and other people?plus you?ll see more and enjoy the lake longer. When running

at higher speeds, keep the motor properly trimmed to reduce noise and the boat wake.

Shoreland Alterations

are Regulated

In Cass County, any dirt moving in the ShoremImpact Zone (SIZ) requires a permit. Intensive vegetation clearing within bluff impact zones and on steep slopes is not allowed. In the Shore Impact Zone 1, no trees or shrubs can be removed except to accommodate placement of stairways, landings, or access

paths. In Shore Impact Zone 2, the removal of 25% of trees, in a random  pattern, and 100% of shrubs is permitted.

- The shore impact zone (SIZ) 1 is the distance from the ordinary high water level to one half the structure setback. This varies according to lake classification.

- The shore impact zone 2 is the distance from the SIZ 1 to the structure setback.

- The bluff impact zone includes the bluff itself and an area within 30 feet from the top and the bottom of the bluff .




A natural shoreline is a complex ecosystem that helps protect the entire lake. Preserving

or restoring your shoreline with native vegetation is the best way to reduce shoreland

erosion, protect water quality, and improve the health and diversity of shoreland and

upland birds, wildlife, and aquatic plants.

A natural shoreline is a bridge (a buffer) between two worlds?the land and water. It

reduces runoff to prevent erosion and sedimentation to the lake and intercepts nutrients

that can degrade water quality by increasing algae and aquatic

plant growth. Studies show that there can be as much as

500% more diversity of plant and animal species along a natural

shoreline compared to upland areas.

If your shoreland is already natural vegetation, congratulations?please keep it that way.

If you have lawn to the water?s edge, or very little native vegetation near the shore, consider

a natural shoreland landscaping project to restore the native vegetation by creating

a shoreland buffer zone?an area of native vegetation along the water?s edge.

Creating and maintaining a natural buffer zone along your shore does not mean your

property has to look messy, but it may mean you have to re-think what your shoreland

should look like. Buffers of native trees, flowers and shrubs can bring natural beauty to

your yard. One of the greatest benefits of establishing native vegetation is their deep

root systems that stabilize the shore from erosion and ice damage and provide an area

for rain to soak into the ground instead of running off to the lake.

Even if your neighbors are not restoring their shoreland, it is important for you to proceed

because its helps improve your property and water quality, and you can serve as a

good role model for others to follow. The individual choices by many can have cumulative

impacts on the lake and its ecosystem. Ultimately, keeping the water clean can be

far less costly than cleaning up a damaged lake, and clean waters framed by natural

vegetation often have the highest property values.

Reduce Runoff: Preserve or

Restore Native Shoreline Vegetation

A natural shoreline is a complex ecosystem that helps protect the entire lake. Preserving

or restoring your shoreline with native vegetation is the best way to reduce shoreland

erosion, protect water quality, and improve the health and diversity of shoreland and

upland birds, wildlife, and aquatic plants.

A natural shoreline is a bridge (a buffer) between two worlds?the land and water. It

reduces runoff to prevent erosion and sedimentation to the lake and intercepts nutrients

that can degrade water quality by increasing algae and aquatic

plant growth. Studies show that there can be as much as

500% more diversity of plant and animal species along a natural

shoreline compared to upland areas.

If your shoreland is already natural vegetation, congratulations?please keep it that way.

If you have lawn to the water?s edge, or very little native vegetation near the shore, consider

a natural shoreland landscaping project to restore the native vegetation by creating

a shoreland buffer zone?an area of native vegetation along the water?s edge.

Creating and maintaining a natural buffer zone along your shore does not mean your

property has to look messy, but it may mean you have to re-think what your shoreland

should look like. Buffers of native trees, flowers and shrubs can bring natural beauty to

your yard. One of the greatest benefits of establishing native vegetation is their deep

root systems that stabilize the shore from erosion and ice damage and provide an area

for rain to soak into the ground instead of running off to the lake.

Even if your neighbors are not restoring their shoreland, it is important for you to proceed

because its helps improve your property and water quality, and you can serve as a

good role model for others to follow. The individual choices by many can have cumulative

impacts on the lake and its ecosystem. Ultimately, keeping the water clean can be

far less costly than cleaning up a damaged lake, and clean waters framed by natural

vegetation often have the highest property values.

What is a shoreland buffer zone?

A buffer zone is an unmowed strip of native vegetation that

extends both lakeward and landward from the water?s

edge. A buffer zone of native plants that extends 25-50

feet landward from the shore is preferable, but even

adding a buffer as narrow as 10-15 feet can restore many

functions critical to the health of the lake that may have

been eliminated previously by sod, hard structures, or

mowing. When it comes to shoreland buffers, wider is

better for more benefits.

A shoreland buffer zone consists of:

- The shallow aquatic zone of the emergent, submerged,

and floating leaf aquatic plants that provide

food and shelter for ducks, songbirds, frogs and other

amphibians, and fish. The taller plants, like bulrush,

sedges, and cattails can reduce the energy of wave

action to minimize erosion and help maintain water


- The wetland transition zone of more water-loving

plants that bind the lake bed to the upland soils.

- The upland zone of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and

wildflowers slows rainwater running over-land, making

sediment drop out, absorbing water and nutrients, and

breaking down pollutants.

Getting Started Creating a Shoreland Buffer

Before You Start

There are a number of ways to create a shoreland buffer

depending on the characteristics of the shoreland and the

desires of the property owner. Before you decide how to

approach establishing a shoreland buffer, thoughtfully

assess your shoreline and what you want to accomplish.

- Do you have erosion problems to correct? Problems

with Canada geese? What kind of wildlife would you

like to attract?

- Consider the specific conditions at your site, including

light, moisture, orientation, and degree of slope.

- Identify soil type and the type of lake bottom (mucky,

sandy, rocky).

- Think about where you?re located on the lake ? do you

get a lot of wind and wave action, or direct sunlight for

much of the day? Shoreline revegetation is most likely

to succeed in areas that are sheltered and experience

little or moderate wave action, do not experience significant

changes in water level during the growing season,

and are not very steep.

- Also consider the different ways you use the shoreland

area and the amount of shoreland that you want to

restore. How much area is really needed for lake

access for boats and swimming? Limiting the beach

and dock area to 15-20 feet and leaving the rest of the

shoreline natural is ideal to have both the benefits of

the buffer zone while having recreational access to the

lake. Resource professionals recommend that you

maintain a shoreland buffer along 75% of the shoreline


Next, decide how you want to establish a shoreland buffer.

Here are some options.

Don?t Mow, Let It Grow A simple, no-cost way to get

started in restoring your shoreland is to stop mowing for

the width of the desired buffer strip. Turf grasses will grow

12-24 inches before going to seed, after which seeds in

the soil will germinate and valuable native plants will begin

to appear. You can note the types of native plants and

wildflowers growing on natural shorelands around lake to

get an idea of what is likely to appear or will be suitable for

growing in your area. While the buffer is getting established,

you may need to weed out nuisance species or add

native plants for diversity, but not mowing will get you

started. Over time, shrubs and trees will naturally fill in and

provide a more diverse plant cover.



Many of the local nurseries and garden centers now carry native plant stock and can

recommend the best plants for your site. Plants used should be indigenous to

Minnesota?don?t buy plants from a mail order catalog grown in another part of the

country and expect them to grow. The DNR website has a list of native plant suppliers

and landscapers. Consult with the regional Extension Office or a DNR Shoreland Habitat

specialist for resources. Take one of the many classes offered throughout the summer

on the basics of shoreland restoration. Professionals teaching the classes will help you

design your own project and may later be available for further consultation. Many classes

include an opportunity to participate in the planting of a restoration project to give you

experience for planting your own project.


The book Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water

Quality and the CD Restore Your

Shore are two highly recommended

resources to

get you started. Financial

assistance for your project

may be available; check with

the Cass County

Environmental Services or the

DNR Shoreland Habitat

Restoration Grant Program.

Hire a Professional

Shoreland restoration is a rapidly

growing field among landscape professionals and a

number of professional resources are available in

Cass County. Consult the yellow pages, the

University of Minnesota Extension, or contact Cass County Environmental Services. Ask

for recommendations from other property owners who have completed revegetation projects.

When working with a professional you should expect a detailed site analysis, a site

plan developed with you and your interests taken into consideration, and professionally

installed plantings. They may also be available for maintenance of your site as it?s getting

established. If your site has a steep slope or other unusual characteristics, getting

professional assistance will be important to the success of your project.

Maintaining Your Restored Shoreland

A shoreland restored with native vegetation should maintain itself once it is established.

Apply mulch to new planting beds to prevent soil erosion, hold moisture in the soil, and

control weeds. You may need to water and weed the first season, but once the plants

are established, they will be able to out-compete most weeds. Native species should

never be fertilized because they are adapted to the nutrient levels found in local soils,

and fertilizers and pesticides applied to areas near shore can be a threat to aquatic life

and water quality. Plants left standing in fall and winter provide seeds and shelter for

wildlife, add interest to the winter landscape, and protect the soil from wind erosion. If

some plants do not survive the first year, replant as quickly as possible to maintain a

continuous vegetative cover. As your shoreland buffer grows, you may want to trim some

tree branches or shrubs to keep your view of the lake clear while maintaining the benefits

of a natural shoreline.

Protect the Aquatic Zone

The aquatic zone is a vital part of the

shoreland buffer. Emergent vegetation

helps purify the lake by removing contaminants

and calming the water, which

allows suspended soil particles to settle

to the lake bottom. They provide shelter

and spawning areas for fish and other

wildlife and add oxygen back into the

water. If submerged aquatic plants are

interfering with swimming, clear by

hand only what is needed to provide a

small swimming area. Leave other submerged

plants in place. Any chemical

treatment of aquatic plants or the

destruction of cattails, bulrushes, or

wild rice will require a permit from the

appropriate DNR Fisheries office.

As part of your project, you may want to plant more aquatic vegetation. This will require

a permit from the DNR, but generally a permit fee is waived because this activity is

encouraged. Once planted, it may be necessary to install wave break structures to protect

young plants from wave damage until their roots are established.

Learn to identify aquatic invasive species, such as Curlyleaf pondweed and Eurasian

watermilfoil, and report any suspect plants to the DNR. These invasive species can

replace native plants that are vital to the lake ecosystem, and they create recreational

nuisances and impact water quality.

Leave Fallen Trees and Branches Alone

Unless they are interfering with your recreational access, leave trees and

branches that have fallen into the water alone. They form critical habitat

for aquatic organisms that fish and other aquatic life feed on, provide

cover from predators for small fish, and they serve as a dock for turtles,

kingfishers and other interesting wildlife. The fish and wildlife will appreciate you.


Common Plants for Shoreland Buffers

These plants are commonly used in creating shoreland buffers or are found

naturally along shorelines. There is a wide variety of other sedges and plants

native to Minnesota that can also be used.

Aquatic Zone



Water shield

White and

yellow water lily



Wet Transition Zone

Marsh marigold

Swamp milkweed

Blue flag iris

Canada bluejoint grass

Blue vervain


Upland Zone

Wild rose

Canada anemone

Little Bluestem

Wild bergamot

Black-eyed susan

Red-osier dogwood

High bush cranberry


For a Cass County native plant list, see:


Capture and Cleanse Runoff:

Manage Your Stormwater

The new way of managing rainwater (stormwater) is to get the water into the ground

near where it falls instead of letting it run off to eventually make its way to a nearby

waterbody carrying with it pollutants, chemicals, soils laden with nutrients and other

materials that can impact water quality, aquatic life, and wildlife. Learn to view rainwater

as a resource. This approach to stormwater management is called Low Impact

Development (LID).

This new way of thinking about rainwater mimics the natural water cycle and pre-development

patterns on a property, keeping the drop of water as close to where it fell in the

watershed so it can soak into the ground. This principle gets closer to the natural cycle

of 50% infiltration/10% runoff for vegetated shorelands that is discussed on page 11.

Key LID concepts include:

- Conserve: preserve native trees, vegetation, and soils, and maintain natural

drainage patterns.

- Control at the source: minimize runoff volume at the source by collecting or

directing it to vegetated areas where it can infiltrate (soak in to) the ground slowly.

- Customized Site Design: each home or commercial/industrial site can help

protect the watershed through the appropriate combination of LID techniques.

- Pollution Prevention and Maintenance: reduce pollutant loads to waterbodies and

increase efficiency and longevity of infrastructure with proper and timely maintenance.

LID uses techniques that infiltrate (soak in to the ground), filter, store, evaporate, and

detain runoff close to its source. These include the use of infiltration basins, rain gardens,

rain barrels, grassy swales, and general reduction of the amount of impervious

pavement. In addition, LID also emphasizes protecting natural areas important for water

transport and filtering, such as wetlands, streams, and vegetation buffers near water.

Remember?every part of your lot is part of a larger watershed. The degree to which

water is properly managed at the lot scale is the degree to which habitat and water quality

degradation can be minimized to the adjacent lake or river, or other waterbodies in

the watershed and groundwater can be recharged.

When Building or Altering the Landscape:

Any new development or alteration of the landscape should have site design and planning

that takes the natural vegetation and drainage patterns into consideration.

- Minimize grading and clearing. Carefully assess the property and its natural

drainage patters before designing the house and its placement on the lot.

- Keep wetlands and as much native vegetation as possible. Wetlands filter out nutrients

and native trees provide shade, filter and soak up water, and are habitat for

birds and wildlife. They require less care and can tolerate a wide range of conditions.

- Conserve the soils that will allow good infiltration of rainwater and place rain gardens

and swales in those locations.

- Slope paved surfaces toward vegetated low areas to allow water to soak in.

- Landscape with rain gardens to hold runoff on the lot and to filter rainwater and

recharge groundwater.

- Retain rooftop runoff in a rain barrel for lawn and garden watering?your garden will

love the natural nutrients.

- Combine rain gardens with grassy swales to replace curb and gutter.

- Reduce impervious surfaces. When building, construct smaller houses or building

footprints; build up rather than out. Minimize the amount of driveway, roof area, and

sidewalks. Cover worn paths that may be compacted

with mulch to absorb water. For patios and walkways,

use permeable pavers or interlocking pavers or flat

stones set in sand instead of concrete.

- Minimize or discontinue using fertilizers and herbicides.

These chemicals easily run off into lakes and

streams, triggering algae blooms and fish kills.

Assess Stormwater Management on Your Lot

Take a look at your current landscaping and drainage patterns.

Are there locations on your property where significant

volumes of stormwater runoff are being generated? If

yes, begin thinking about how you might reduce runoff

using the techniques outlined in this Guide. Could you

move or remove what is causing the runoff or managing

the runoff using diversion, infiltration, and/or storage practices?

Are the soils on your site suitable for infiltration

stormwater management practices? In general, sandy and

gravelly soils work quite well, while soils with more than 30

percent clay or more than 40 percent silt and clay do not

infiltrate well.

Judicial Center Showcases LID Techniques

The new Judicial Center in Brainerd uses a combination of

three rain gardens, planted in May 2007, and other LID

techniques to infiltrate the parking lot runoff. The curb

cutouts allow rainwater and snowmelt runoff to enter this

rain garden located in the center of the Judicial Cente

parking lot.




Capture and Cleanse Runoff:

Use Rain Barrels & Rain Gardens

When It Rains, It Pollutes

Rain naturally contains pollutants, including phosphorus and mercury. You cannot do

much about this source of the pollution, but you can capture some rainwater and allow it

to be cleansed through natural soil processes to prevent it from running off into the lake,

where it can be detrimental to water quality.

The best way to do this is to: divert rainwater off roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces

into rain barrels or to the lawn, or create a special garden?a rain garden?

designed to capture and clean the rainwater naturally.

Divert Rainwater Off Roofs and Driveways

Roofs of houses and other buildings, especially larger houses, and driveways comprise

most of the impervious (impermeable) surfaces. Redirect rainway flow from drain spouts,

roof gutters, and driveways onto vegetated areas and away from the lake, steep slopes,

and bluffs. There it can be captured and have time to infiltrate naturally into the soil or be

used later for watering, instead of getting to the lake.

Install a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is any type of container used to catch water flowing from a downspout and store it  for later use. The rain barrel is placed underneath a shortened downspout diverting the roof runoff into the barrel. The rain barrel has a spigot to collect the stored water for use in watering flower gardens, house plants and lawns?it?s a natural way to fertilize. Due to lack of research at this time, water collected in a rain barrel is not recommended for watering vegetable gardens. Humans and pets should not drink the stored water. Non-toxic mosquito dunks are available at garden supply stores and mail order catalogs to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes in rain barrels. Rain barrels need to be cleaned routinely during spring and summer months to reduce algae growth. During winter months, take your barrel out of operation by simply turning it upside down at the same location or storing elsewhere. Rain barrels are available from Cass County Environmental Services (ESD) for $56 plus tax. Pay at the ESD office, Courthouse, Walker, and pick up the barrel at various locations throughout the County. You can also order rain barrels online from many garden catalogs or you can make your own (see resources).

Plant a Rain Garden

A rain garden is just what it sounds like?a garden to soak up rain water. It is a recessed

planting bed, shaped like a saucer or shallow bowl, designed to collect runoff from driveways,

roofs, and other hard surface or sheet flow of rain from lawns. The collected water

is then infiltrated into the ground instead of running off to the lake.

Rain gardens are planted with hardy, water-loving native perennial plants that have deep

roots, which along with the soil, work to provide a filter system to catch pollutants such

as phosphorus, oil, mercury and other heavy metals in rainwater that run into the garden

area. Rain gardens allow sediments that are carried with runoff to settle so plants can

absorb the nutrients. During a rainfall, the highest concentration of pollutants is during

the first inch, or first flush of a storm, which is retained in the rain garden.

In general, typical rain garden should be located at least 10 feet from the house and will

range from 100 to 300 square feet in size with a depth of 6 inches to 12 inches. As a

rule of thumb, one garden will handle the runoff from a hard surface that is about 10

times their size. For larger surfaces, more than one rain garden may be needed to handle

the runoff, perhaps locate one rain garden near each down spout. Rain collected will

infiltrate into the ground within a few days, sometimes even hours depending on your

soil type.

To be effective, rain gardens must be properly designed for the right shape and size to

accommodate the amount of roof, driveway, and other hard surfaces on your property as

well as your soil conditions. Plants must be used that are appropriate for your soil type

and will also tolerate standing water for up to 48 hours.

For proper design, it is recommended to consult resources to help you determine the

proper plants and dimensions. Talk with the local extension agent or a landscaping

professional knowledgeable about rain gardens. See the ?How-To? resources or do an

internet search for additional resources.


What Can I Do On My Shoreland

Property? What Permits are Required?

Who Has Regulatory Authority in the Shoreland Zone?

The shoreland zone in Cass County is defined as the land within 1,320 feet of a lake or

river plus the near shore waters.

- For any actions in the water or on the land below the ordinary high water level

(OHWL) of a public water (lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands), check with the appropriate

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office for permits that may be


- For any actions on the land above the OHWL (the upland areas of your property)

and within the shoreland zone, contact the appropriate county office. If located

within the boundaries of a city, contact city offices.

How do I know where the ordinary high water level (OHWL) is? For lakes and wetlands,

the OHWL is the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period

of time to leave evidence on the landscape; it is not necessarily the highest place the

water has been. It is commonly that point where the natural vegetation changes from predominately

aquatic to predominantly terrestrial.

The OHWL is a reference elevation that defines the DNR's regulatory authority, and it is

used by Cass County to determine their regulatory zone and appropriate setbacks for


If there is a question about the OHWL on your property, contact the DNR Area

Hydrologist or check with the Cass County Environmental Services.

Commonly Asked Questions about Shoreland Activities:

What are the requirements for installing a retaining wall or rip rap for erosion control?

A DNR public waters work permit is required to build a retaining wall along your

shoreline if the structure is proposed below the OHWL. Cass County requires a permit

for rip rap above the OHWL. Retaining walls are discouraged, particularly on relatively

undeveloped lakes. Planting vegetation for erosion control is preferred; rip rap (coarse

stones, boulders, or rock placed against the bank or shore) may be allowed without

requiring a DNR permit if specific conditions are followed in installation. For either a

retaining wall or rip rap installation, you will need technical advice for the best success.

Contact both the DNR Area Hydrologist and the Cass County Environmental Services for

assistance. Refer to the DNR Shoreland Alteration fact sheet.


Do I need a permit for a sand blanket or beach development?

Everyone wants a nice sandy beach area, but

trying to create a sandy beach where it has not existed

naturally may not always be successful. Before making

your decision, be aware that wave action can erode the

beach, and sand will migrate down shore, possibly damaging

fish and wildlife habitat. If the lake bottom is soft, the

sand will only sink into the muck and disappear. Sand

blankets cannot be applied over bulrush and cattails; vegetation

will constantly emerge.

Before installing a sand blanket below the OHWL, contact

the Area DNR Waters office for installation and possible

permit requirements. Refer to the DNR Shoreland

Alteration fact sheet for specifications. A permit will be

needed from Cass County Environmental Services if you

are installing a sand blanket above the OHWL.

What rules apply to docks? Docks are privately owned

structures, which are allowed to be placed in public waters

of the state to provide access to the use of the water. Dock

rules are established by the DNR to prevent the deterioration

of the lake?s ecosystem from excessive or inappropriate

dock placement. Local governments have the authority to

regulate docks; Cass County currently defers to state rules.

In choosing the right dock and boat lift configuration for

your property, it is important to keep in mind that a dock is

private property placed on a public resource, and they can

have detrimental impacts on the lake. They may shade out

important aquatic plants and cause fragmentation and

destruction of important emergent and submerged aquatic

vegetation that provides habitat where fish spawn, feed,

grow, and find shelter from predators. Keep dockage

appropriately balanced between reasonable access and

resource protection. Do not use docks for activities that are

better intended for land, such as barbeques and porches.

No DNR permit is needed to install, construct, or reconstruct

a dock on shoreline if:

- The dock, not including the watercraft lift or canopy, is

not wider than 8 feet and is not combined with other

structures that create a larger structure.

- The dock is no longer than is necessary to reach navigable

water depth, is not a safety hazard, it does not

close off access for others to the lake, allows for free

flow of water under it, and is not intended for use as a


A temporary 2008 general permit allows for a modest platform

at the lake end of the dock under the following circumstances:

1) a single temporary platform up to 120

square feet measured separately from the access dock, or;

2) 170 square feet including the area of the adjacent

access dock. The access dock must be 5 feet or less in

width and is located on a lake with a classification of

General Development or Recreational Development. If a

dock exceeds these conditions, a DNR Waters permit will

be required. For more information, see ?Dock Rules? in the

Resource Section.

Can I control aquatic plants in front of my shoreline?

The removal or destruction of aquatic plants is a regulated

activity under the DNR?s Aquatic Plant Management

Program. Aquatic plants are a valuable part of the lake

system. They stabilize bottom sediments, protect water

clarity, prevent shoreline erosion and provide fish habitat.

You are encouraged to keep destruction of aquatic plants

at a minimum. Unless aquatic plants are interfering with

lake access, swimming, or other water recreation activities,

they should be left alone. If you are seeing unusually high

plant growth where it has not previously occurred, look for

possible sources of phosphorus getting into the lake from

your property that might be fueling this growth, such as

excessive runoff, a septic system, or shoreland erosion.

If management is desired, consider managing plants only

in the swimming area; it is not necessary to have the entire

shoreline devoid of submerged aquatic plants. For management,

you need to know:

_ No emergent plants can be destroyed (bulrushes, cattails,

wild rice) unless authorized by a DNR permit.

_ Submerged vegetation can be manually controlled (hand

cutting or pulling) in a area not exceeding 2,500 square

feet or wider than 50 feet along the shore or half the

width of your property, whichever is smaller; more than

that requires a permit.

_ Cut or pulled vegetation must be removed from the

water and the cleared area must remain in the same

place from year to year.

_ A permit from DNR Fisheries is needed to:

- Use any chemicals or automated mechanical devices

(such as the Crary WeedRoller, Beachgroomer or

Lake Sweeper).

- Use copper sulfate for swimmers itch control.

- Remove floating leaf vegetation in an area larger than

a channel 15 feet wide to open water.

- Remove or relocate a bog of any size that is free

floating or lodged elsewhere than its original location.

- Plant aquatic plants below the OHWL as part of a

shoreline restoration project. This activity is encouraged

and there is generally no permit charge.

These activities are not allowed in any circumstances:

- Excavating the lake bottom for aquatic plant control,

using lake-bottom barriers to destroy or prevent the

growth of aquatic plants,

- Removing vegetation within posted fish-spawning areas,

- Removing aquatic plants from an undeveloped shoreline,


- Removing aquatic plants where they do not interfere

with swimming, boating or other recreation.

If you see violations of these permit requirements, or

any other permit requirements, contact Cass County

Environmental Services if the violation is above the

OHWL, or your DNR Conservation Officer if it is below the



Cass County Shoreland Permit Requirements

For shoreland properties within municipal boundaries,

check with the city?s Planning & Zoning office for permit

requirements. Bungo and Maple townships have

permitting authority; check with them before beginning

projects. For all other areas of Cass County, the following

permit requirements apply in shoreland areas.

Building Permits for New Construction,

Remodeling, Decks, Garages, etc:

Contact Cass County Environmental Services (ESD)

No permit is required for accessory structures of 150

sq.feet or less that meet setbacks and have no intended

human habitation. Permits will be required for accessory

structures of more than 150 square feet in shoreland

areas. A permit is required for a deck. For new residential

construction, check with the Cass ESD for specific parcel

requirements. No paved access in the shoreland impact

zone or filling of wetlands is allowed.

Construction in Bluff Zones:

See sidebar on page 9 for bluff requirements. Contact

Cass ESD for topographic definitions of a bluff and building


Non-Conforming Lots and Uses

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

A variance may be required for projects on non-conforming

lots. Some non-conforming lots recorded before 1972 may

be buildable without a variance; check with ESD. Shoreline

buffer establishment is required in conjunction with most

shoreland variance approvals.

Boat Houses

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

No new boat houses are allowed in the shoreland zone.

Existing non-conforming boat houses can be replaced with

no changes in size, location, or use; contact ESD for a


Dirt Moving in the Shoreland Zone (ice ridge

removal, shoreland landscaping, etc)

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

Any dirt moving, including ice ridge manipulation, in the

Shore Impact Zone (SIZ) requires a permit. Contact the

ESD for specific requirements for historic ice ridges. In

general, movement of up to 50 cubic yards of soil requires

a shoreland alteration permit; movement of more than 50

cubic yards requires a conditional use permit and an engineered

plan and performance bond. Contact ESD for specific

requirements in SIZ 1 & 2.

Wetland Alterations

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

No wetland alternations are allowed in the SIZ. Work in

any wetland must be undertaken in accordance with the

Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act.

Vegetation Alterations

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

See page 9 for shoreland alteration regulations. No fertilizer

application is allowed in SIZ 1 & 2. Naturally dead or

diseased trees may be removed in both zones. Removal of

emergent aquatic vegetation requires a DNR permit; see

page 19 for requirements.

Docks and Beaches

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

Docks must meet MN DNR requirements (see page 19)

and a 10-foot setback from the nearest lot line. They must

not block access to open water for adjacent properties and

shall be placed within permitted shoreland alternation

areas. New beaches on residential shoreland lots shall not

exceed 14 feet in width and shall be incorporated in the

lake access area. With a shoreland alternation permit, a

one-time addition of up to 10 cubic yards of sand may be

placed on existing sand beaches. Berms shall be placed

landward of all beaches to prevent erosion from runoff. If

removal of aquatic vegetation is required, contact the


Septic Systems

Contact Cass County Environmental Services

See page 5 for Cass County regulations. Low interest

loans for 5 years at 3% interest are available to repair or

replace an existing non-conforming or failing septic system.

Before purchasing a shoreland property, ask these questions

and/or check with the Cass County ESD:

- Do all of the structures meet the setbacks?

- Does the parcel meet other building requirements for

the lot?

- Have all existing structures on the property been built

with a permit?

- Is the septic system in compliance with Cass County


It is better to ask far enough in advance then to find out

later you will not be able to build what you planned.

Additional Information on Cass County Land Use

Ordinance and Permit Requirements

See the Land Use Ordinance on the County website. For

more specifics on land use topics, see fact sheets at






_ Cass County Shoreland Homeowner's Checklist:

Contact Cass County Environmental Services before:

- Buying, clearing, or developing shoreland property.

- Building a new structure, remodeling or adding on to an existing structure.

- Installing a septic system.

- Building a boardwalk, raised path to the lake, or anything that does not meet setback requirements.

- Building or repairing any accessory structure near the shore (boat house, gazebo, storage


- Building stairways, landings, or clearing access paths in bluff areas.

- Draining, excavating, or filling a wetland anywhere in Cass County.

- Any kind of dirt moving, shoreland alterations, or changing the appearance of your shoreland

building setback zone (shoreland impact zone) or near shore area by clearing, cutting, planting,

grading, or filling.

- Installing a sand blanket above the ordinary high water level.

If you are in doubt or need clarification about any activity, contact: Cass County

Environmental Services Department; 218-547-7241

Contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before:

- Removing emergent vegetation (cattails, bulrushes, wild rice).

- Using chemicals to control aquatic vegetation.

- Altering a lake bed.

- Any work done below the ordinary high water level (OHWL).

- Installing any form of riprap or installing a retaining wall.

- Any land disturbance below the ordinary high water level.



1 Protecting Your Waterfront Investment, Center for Land Use Education, UW Extension; 2005.

2 Shoreland Property: a guide to environmentally sound ownership; 2002; Southeast Wisconsin Fox

River Basin Partnership Team, University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Department of

Natural Resources.

3 Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality, State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources;

Henderson C; Dindorf C; Rozumalski, F.

4 Minnesota DNR Shoreline Alternations Fact Sheets: Natural Buffers, Lakescaping; Riprap, Sand


5 The Shoreland Stewardship Series: A fresh look at shoreland restoration; DNR FH-430-00; RP-03-

10M-50-S; University of Wisconsin-Extension, Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, Wisconsin Department

of Natural Resources and the GMU Teams, and the Wisconsin Association of Lakes.

6 Rain Barrel Fact Sheet, Crow Wing County Extension, 2007.


Frequent Contact Information

Cass County Offices

Cass County Website: Click on various departments.

Cass County Environmental Services

Courthouse, 1st Floor

303 Minnesota Avenue W., PO Box 3000, Walker

MN 56484-3000 (218) 547-7241

Soil and Water Conservation District

(218) 547-7399

Assessor: (218) 547-7298;

Regional Extension Office:

322 Laurel Street, Ste 21
, Brainerd

(218) 547-7298

Boat and Water Safety: (218) 547-7329;

Permits required for rafts; $10/2 years

Extension: (218) 587-8280;

Land Commissioner: (218) 947-3338;

Sheriff: 1-800-450-COPS (2677)

For emergency, dial 911

Other Services:

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal

Drop-off Center Location: Solid Waste Transfer

Station, 2 miles N of Pine River on Hwy 371. HHW

is accepted by appointment only. Call (888) 910-

2425, ext. 2. Mobile hazardous waste collections

are held in various locations during the summer.

Yard Waste:

Grass clippings, leaves, and pine needles can be

dropped off at:

- Longville:Slagle Transfer Site

- Mark's Farm and Garden, Hackensack

- Walker/Hackensack Transfer Site

Tree trimmings and brush can be brought to the

Slagle and Walker/Hackensack transfer sites.

Composting is encouraged.

Minnesota State Offices

DNR Waters/Area Hydrologist

Michele Puchalski: (218) 308-2620

DNR/Shoreline Habitat Specialists

In Southern Cass County, contact: Heather Baird

(218) 833-8368,

Rest of Cass County, contact: Lindy Ekola

(320) 634-4573,

DNR Regional Fisheries/Aquatic

Plant Permits

Bemidji Fisheries Office: (218) 308-2623

Brainerd Fisheries (for Southern Cass):

(218) 828-2735

Conservation Officers:

Toll Free: (888) 646-6367

Walker Area: Gary Sommers, (218) 547-4501

Cass Lake Area: Mark Mathy, (218) 547-0807

Remer Area: Larry Francis, (218) 566-4833

Longville?temporarily vacant

Pine River: Nikki Shoutz, (218) 692-3456

Southern Cass County/Brainerd: Randy Posner,

(218) 575-2289

Turn in Poachers: (800) 652-9093

Minnesota Department of Health/Bemidji

(218) 308-2100

Frequent Contact Information

Additional Resources:

Aquatic Plant Management:

DNR Water Permits Requirements:

Dock Rules: See ?Dock Information? at

Erosion Control for Home Builders:

General Shoreland Homeowner Information:

Non-Toxic Household Product Alternatives:

Rain Barrels/Gardens:

- Constructing a rain barrel:

- Rain Garden: A How -To Manual:

- Rain Garden Design Fact Sheets:

Septic System Design and Maintenance: or call 800-322-8642.

Shoreland Alterations Fact Sheets:

(Docks, Rip Rap, Sand Blankets, Ice Ridges, Lakescaping); see Shoreland Management Section.

Shoreland Landscaping:

- The Water?s Edge:

- Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality: Available in bookstores or from Minnesota Bookstore, 800-


- Restore Your Shore CD:

- Living Shore Video/DVD: A 17-minute video showing the importance of leaving a natural buffer zone on

the shore; check with your county Extension Office for a loaner copy.

- Native Plants for Sustainable Landscapes

Stormwater Management:Minnesota Stormwater Manual