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Funding and assistance for natural resources projects

Hennepin County provides a variety of funding and expert assistance for natural resources projects.

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Natural resources grants are paused for evaluation and review in 2021. Check back in 2022.

Grants are available to landowners, which include individuals, government organizations, nonprofit organizations and businesses, for projects that preserve and restore the county’s natural resources. These grants support projects that preserve and restore natural areas and reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment flowing into lakes, streams and rivers while engaging residents in natural resource management issues.

Type of grants available

Good steward grants

These are primarily for smaller projects that improve water quality, enhance natural areas and promote environmental stewardship to the community. A typical grant amount is $5,000 to $15,000, with a maximum amount of $25,000.

Opportunity grants

These are ideal for larger projects seeking to leverage multiple funding sources. These grants are intended to help partners take advantage of opportunities to implement large projects that improve water quality or preserve, establish or restore natural areas. Applicants are encouraged to use these funds as match funding dollars for other funding sources. A typical grant amount is $25,000 to $50,000, with a maximum amount of $100,000. 

Eligible applicants

All landowners are eligible to apply, including:

  • Individuals
  • Nonprofit and non-governmental organizations
  • Local government agencies
  • Businesses

Applying for natural resources grants

We will accept our first batch of Opportunity Grants June 1-June 30, 2020. Download the Opportunity Grant application and guidelines (DOCX).

We are not currently accepting grant applications for Good Steward Grants during the spring and summer of 2020. Please continue to check our website for when this grant will be available.

If you have any questions on the grant program or other funding opportunities, please contact Kris Guentzel, kristopher.guentzel@hennepin.us or 612-596-1171.

Funding guidelines and project examples

Funding may be used for environmental or engineering consulting fees, materials, supplies, labor and inspection fees.

Good steward grants

  • Ideal for smaller, community-based or single applicant projects. Typical projects include constructing rain gardens, stabilizing stream banks, restoring native vegetation, installing vegetated filter strips or implementing other best management projects.
  • Typical funding amount of $5,000 to $15,000; maximum funding amount of $25,000
  • Grant funding can cover up to 75 percent of the total eligible project cost. Landowners must contribute the remaining 25 percent of project costs, which can be cash or in-kind.

Opportunity grants

  • Ideal for larger projects seeking to leverage multiple funding sources from more than one partner.
  • Ideal for projects identified as priorities in the applicant's management plans (such as a comprehensive plan or watershed management plan).
  • Typical funding amount of $25,000 to $50,000; maximum funding amount of $100,000.
  • No match required. Funds are often used for required match for other funding sources.

Good steward grants awarded in 2021

City of Minnetonka and the Friends of Cullen Nature Preserve, Minnetonka

$25,000 to implement the first phase of a habitat management plan to restore degraded mature oak woodland brushland and savannah and protect critical habitat in the 31-acre Cullen Nature Preserve in Minnetonka. For this grant, restoration and enhancement funding from the Department’s Outdoor Heritage Fund grant will be used.

Children’s Dental Services, Minneapolis

$25,000 to install permeable pavement in a parking lot at the company’s headquarters in NE Minneapolis. The project will capture runoff and pollutants, including 195,000 gallons of rainwater, 58 pounds of sediment, 0.32 pounds of phosphorus each year. Children’s Dental Services is also developing innovative materials to educate patients and other visitors about water including coloring pages and interpretive, multilingual signage.

Back Channel Brewing, Spring Park

$25,000; to install a 2,000 square-foot rain garden on the brewery’s property directly adjacent to Lake Minnetonka in Spring Park. Currently, runoff from 4.67-acre commercial property discharges directly into the lake untreated. This project will capture and treat 130,000 cubic feet of water per year and keep 1,645 pounds of sediment and 2.3 pounds of phosphorus out of the lake annually, while also providing pollinator habitat. For this grant, half of the grant funds will be provided by State Cost-Share funding from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

City of New Hope Meadow Lake Road property, New Hope

$18,355 to develop a public-private partnership with a private landowner to install a curb-cut rain garden on their Meadow Lake Road property. The anticipated 600 square-foot rain garden is estimated to keep 1.5 pounds of phosphorus per year out of Meadow Lake, which is impaired for excess nutrients. The city plans to use this as a demonstration project for other residents to adopt similar practices.

Heirloom Properties, LLC, Minneapolis

$17,000 to implement an innovative rainwater harvesting system in a new apartment complex to be constructed in south Minneapolis. This system will capture stormwater runoff from the roof and other impervious surfaces on the property and store it in a 3,500-gallon tank for reuse in toilets inside the building and irrigation outside of the building. Project partners estimate this project will capture 90,000 gallons of water annually and offset potable water use inside the building by 76,000 gallons and outdoor irrigation by 14,000 gallons. In addition, the stormwater management features, including a rain garden, will annually keep 34 pounds of sediment and 0.19 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Mississippi River.

University Baptist Church, Minneapolis

$6,900 to install rain gardens and other stormwater management practices on its property in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis. Grant dollars will go specifically toward stormwater conveyance improvements outside the church, which will be paired with other partner investments to install four rain gardens. Collectively, rain gardens and other conservation practices on the church’s property will treat 133,000 gallons of water per year and will annually keep 179 pounds of sediment and 0.64 pounds of phosphorus out of the Mississippi River. Educational signage and activities specifically for children, as well as for the public, is also planned.

Opportunity Grants awarded in 2021

Shingle Creek Watershed Management Commission

$75,000 to install an iron-enhanced sand filter along a channel north of nutrient-impaired Upper Twin Lake in the City of Crystal. Currently, a wetland just east of Crystal Airport is exporting large amounts of water-soluble phosphorus that is difficult to treat with conventional strategies. This project will build off successes of a small pilot, to construct a filter along approximately 400 feet of the channel banks. The project is estimated to capture 50 pounds of phosphorus per year.

Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission

$74,743 to dredge man-made lagoons along Bassett Creek in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The lagoons, built in the 1930’s for aesthetic and recreational purposes, are acting as de facto stormwater ponds and have filled up with sediment over the last 90 years. This project will excavate and properly dispose of these pollutant-laden sediments, increasing both the water quality and flood capacity of these water features as well as downstream waters. Because of the large, 40 square-mile drainage area to the site, this project could have annual benefits approaching 156,000 pounds of sediment and 600 pounds of phosphorus captured annually.

Three Rivers Park District

$50,000 to conduct a second alum treatment dosing in Hyland Lake in Bloomington. Alum, or aluminum sulfate, binds to and immobilizes phosphorus in lake bottom sediments and effectively inactivates the phosphorus, greatly reducing the likelihood this phosphorus can contribute to poor water quality algae blooms that occur due to excess phosphorus. Three Rivers Park District partnered with the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District to conduct the first treatment in 2019 and sought additional dollars to complete the recommended second treatment. This alum treatment will control 50% of phosphorus originating from the lake-bottom sediments, equivalent to approximately 218 pounds. Completion of this project will make substantive progress to removing this lake from the State of Minnesota list of impaired waters.

Boisclair Corporation

$40,257 to complete Phase 2 of stormwater management and green space accessibility improvements in Brook Gardens, an affordable housing community in Brooklyn Park. The project will install nine rain gardens across the community, annually keeping 1,670 pounds of sediment and 4.5 pounds of phosphorus out of Shingle Creek, which is directly adjacent to Brook Gardens. Hennepin County funded Phase 1 through an Opportunity Grant in 2020.

About the grants

Grants are available to help local units of government, nonprofit organizations, and businesses implement projects that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Eligible projects

Eligible project activities include:

  • Assessing the risk of AIS introduction and the resources available to respond
  • Broadening knowledge and participation in early detection and rapid response
  • Preventing the spread of AIS
  • Researching and addressing specific pathways of introduction
  • Increasing enforcement resources
  • Increasing public awareness and participation in prevention
  • Granting applications are accepted once per year, typically in January

Learn more and apply

Applications are accepted once per year, typically in January. Learn more about aquatic invasive species prevention grants.

About the grants

Grants are available to cities, affordable housing properties, schools, and non-profit organizations to enhance the county’s tree canopy.

The goals of the program are to combat threats to trees from invasive insects and disease by funding tree planting, educate the public on tree care and the importance of trees, and increase the diversity and resiliency of the tree canopy.

Eligible project activities

Eligible project activities include:

  • Collecting data with tree inventories and developing tree management plans
  • Holding tree planting events and maintaining newly planted trees
  • Removing and replacing ash trees
  • Conducting tree-related education
  • Hosting Arbor Day celebrations

Learn more and apply

Applications are accepted once per year. Learn more about the healthy tree canopy grants.

About the funding

Hennepin County supports the redevelopment of contaminated properties known as brownfields. A variety of funding is available to support the investigation and environmental assessment phase as well as managing known contamination.

Eligible recipients

Eligible recipients include for-profit businesses, developers, governmental organizations, and nonprofit organizations.

Learn more and apply

Learn more about funding available to clean up brownfields.

Property owners can recover a portion of the cost they pay to seal wells that are no longer in use through the well sealing cost share program.

How it works

Property owners can receive reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the well sealing cost, not to exceed $2,000 per well.

Funding for this program is limited, so the county awards grants to the highest priority wells. The selection process factors in characteristics such as well depth, well diameter, proximity to municipal wellhead protection areas, and other environmental factors that may increase the potential for contamination of municipal groundwater resources.

After receiving and reviewing a completed application, the county will notify the applicant regarding their eligibility for a grant. To be eligible for reimbursement, you must receive grant approval before any well sealing work is done. The county will develop a contract with the property owner outlining the details for reimbursement.

If your well sealing project is eligible for grant funding, you must have a state-licensed well sealing contractor perform all required work. Work must be done in accordance with the Minnesota Well Code, including the filing of a sealed well record with the Minnesota Department of Health.

To receive reimbursement, grantees must submit the documentation specified in the grant contract after the well sealing work has been completed.

For more information

See the Well Sealing Grants flyer (PDF) to learn more about the cost-sharing program.

To learn more about eligibility requirements or to receive a grant application form, contact Mary Karius at mary.karius@hennepin.us.

Habitat conservation

Hennepin County has funding to acquire conservation easements on the best remaining natural areas in the county and conduct habitat restoration on protected properties. Funding is also available to agricultural landowners to permanently remove certain environmentally sensitive lands from production in order to protect surface water and groundwater.

Learn more about funding available for habitat conservation.

Hennepin County cost-share grants

As part of our role as the Soil and Water Conservation District for Hennepin County, natural resources staff work directly with residents to improve water quality and prevent soil erosion.

Funding available to residents throughout the county

A small amount of funding is available each year to residents throughout the county for projects that improve water quality or reduce soil erosion.

Financial assistance of up to 75% of the cost of a project is available. All practices must be approved prior to construction. Landowners are reimbursed upon completion. Participating landowners receive technical assistance in planning and completing their project.

Funding available in priority areas

In some areas, the county and partners have secured grant funding to make financial assistance more widely available for residents completing projects to improve water quality. These priority areas are defined by subwatershed boundaries. In these areas, studies have identified projects that would be cost-effective and have significant impact on reducing pollution to downstream water bodies.

Learn more about subwatershed assessments and priority areas for management and restoration.

Current priorities for cost-share funding

Hennepin County is encouraging the use of practices that improve soil health, including planting cover crops and reducing tillage. Agricultural landowners or operators can receive funding and support to try effective practices that stabilize soil and make yields more consistent and sustainable over time.

Agricultural best management practices loans

Farmers, rural landowners and agricultural supply businesses can apply for low-interest loans through Hennepin County to make improvements or implement practices that will reduce or prevent nonpoint source pollution. The county works with local banks to provide these loans.

Eligible projects include:

  • Animal waste control systems, such as runoff control structures and agricultural waste systems or pits
  • Practices that reduce erosion from runoff, such as grass waterways, erosion and sediment control basins, and terraces
  • Purchase of conservation tillage equipment, such as chisel plows, no-till drills, and no-till planters
  • Upgrades and improvements to existing individual sewage treatment systems in rural areas

Participants are required to complete the Agricultural BMP (Best Management Practice) Loan Program application as well as complete a loan application with a bank of their choice.

Learn more about the agricultural best management practices loan.

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