Can I rework my
shoreline to make it the way I want it?
When thinking of
an ideal shoreline, most of us envision a gentle slope to the lake
with a sandy beach. However, many shorelines dont meet those
ideal conditions, having steep slopes, wet areas, ice ridges, or other
conditions that present management challenges. In the past, many shoreland
property owners have attempted to "conquer" their shoreland
property by building retaining walls, excavating steep slopes, filling
wet areas, or importing sand. Today, we know that protecting natural
shoreline features is critical to protecting water quality and maintaining
a healthy lake ecosystem. Before trying to reconstruct your shoreline,
consider what features of your current shoreline you can live with.
If you must make changes to improve access or for recreation, retain
as much of the natural characteristics as possible to minimize your
impact on water quality and habitat. Shoreland property owners should
plan modifications carefully and consult with local zoning officials
and/or the local DNR office prior to beginning any work that involves
the excavation or alteration of the shoreline. Alteration of the bottom
of a lake or river below the Ordinary High Water mark (OHW) is subject
to the regulations of the DNR. Alterations above the OHW are subject
to regulations of your local government unit.
Can I create a sandy
Not all Minnesota
lakes have sandy shorelines and very few lakes have sandy shores around
the entire perimeter. If a sandy beach is important to you, consider
buying a property with an existing beach. Creating a sandy beach can
be a difficult, expensive proposition, and the beach may not last
more than a few years. If the lakeshore at your property is already
sandy, creating a sandy beach is relatively straightforward. It is
much more difficult to establish a sandy beach in areas with mucky
bottoms. Regulations may allow you to add a beach sand blanket, though
there are some limitations regarding what is allowed. Recognize that
the sand you haul in may be expensive, may damage nearshore habitat,
and can compact upland soils. In addition, the sand will probably
need to be replaced regularly. If you add sand, use the largest available
grain size to provide the greatest stability. Beach sand should not
be added where it destroys fish or wildlife habitat, wild rice, or
other protected vegetation. The natural gravel and silt found near
shore provides habitat for spawning fish, burrowing insects, and tadpoles.
Adding sand can smother and destroy that habitat. Rather than creating
a sandy beach for swimming, consider anchoring a floating platform
offshore. If you opt for a raft, boating safety concerns may make
permits from your county sheriffs department necessary. Establishing
a swimming beach in areas with lots of vegetation can result in swimmers
itch problems. For more information on control of swimmers itch
refer to the MDNR publication at this web address:
Can I remove an
Ice ridges commonly
form from ice expanding and pushing against the shoreline each winter.
The size of the ridge depends on bank slope, temperatures, lake levels
and type of soil along the shore. Significant amounts of sand from
the shore are lost when trapped in floating fragments of ice. The
ice is carried along the shoreline and offshore into the deep water.
This natural process results in the loss of more sand and soil along
the shoreline than any other naturally occurring process. Although
it may be tempting to remove ice ridges, they are actually helpful
structures that slow runoff and stabilize shorelines. A permit from
MDNR Division of Waters is required to remove an ice ridge.
Can I terrace my
bank along the waters edge or add a stairway or landing?
Evaluate the existing
characteristics of your property before planning any construction
or changes on the bank. Plan to preserve or re-establish existing
vegetation. Use best management practices to reduce runoff to avoid
erosion and protect water quality. Contact your local unit of government
for regulations regarding shoreland, wild and scenic rivers, or critical
area ordinances if you plan to do earth work along your shore. Most
ordinances restrict the total surface area that may be covered with
impermeable materials such as asphalt or concrete steps or landings.
If the property is located within an incorporated area, contact the
city planning and/or zoning department, and if the property is unincorporated,
contact the county planning and/or zoning authority.
Who can I contact
if I have questions or a problem related to altering shorelines?
Check your local listing
or the Web site for:
What are some additional
resources related to altering shorelines?
- Managing Aquatic
Plants in Minnesota Lakes. 1997. V.A. Krischik, R.M. newman,
and J.F. Kyhl. University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul
- Protecting Our
Waters, Shoreland Best Management Practices Fact Sheet #5: Limiting
Impact of Recreation on Water Quality. 1998. University of Minnesota
Extension Service, St. Paul
- Lakescaping for
Wildlife and Water Quality. 1999. C.L. Henderson, C.J. Dindorf,
and F. J. Rozumalski, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Life on the Edge:
Owning Waterfront Property. 1998. M.D. Dresen and R. M Korth.
Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, Stevens Point
- Beach Sand Blankets.
1994. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Work That Can
Be Done Without a Protected Waters Permit. 1994. Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources, Division of Waters