Best Shoreland Practices for Healthy Lakes & Rivers
Many riparian owners will be considering ways to improve their properties in the coming months. For those who live along a lakeshore or riverfront, there are great long-lasting projects that can be done almost anytime between snowmelt and freeze up to sustain or improve water quality and habitat.
If you have a natural shoreline, the best thing you can do is to leave it that way. But if your shoreland has been developed or disturbed over time, the DNR has a set of five “Best Practices for Healthy Lakes and Rivers” that can improve on-shore and near-shore habitat, provide wildlife cover, and improve water quality. Most are fairly simple to design and install. Materials and assistance can be found at www.healthylakeswi.com.
Three of the practices are water diversions, rain gardens and rock infiltration areas designed to capture runoff from roofs and driveways and allow space for the rainwater to seep back into the ground, rather than running straight to a storm sewer or flow directly to a waterway. These practices are good ideas for yards that aren’t on the shoreline as well. They help filter contaminants out of runoff to help improve water quality. Rain gardens also have native plants that can tolerate dry and wet weather, while providing beautiful blooms and insect habitat.
Another “blooming” practice that helps with water quality and habitat is a “buffer zone” along the shore where native plants are either planted or allowed to grow by not mowing close to shore. Shoreland buffers can have beautiful flowers, attract birds and wildlife, provide privacy, and like the other practices, filter rainwater flowing toward the lake or river. Native flowers and shrubs also provide food and shelter for native insects, and are relied on for pollination and as a food source for returning spring birds.
Another practice, “fish sticks,” takes more time and planning. “Fish sticks” are trees anchored in the water along the shore for fish, wildlife, and bird habitat. They can also help prevent bank erosion. Some lake associations in our county have completed fish stick installation projects, and more are currently planned.
Getting started on a project that gives lasting benefits is a great thing to do to help our waters, help our pollinators and wildlife, and to spend some time outside!