Natural resources project funding and assistance

Hennepin County offers a variety of programs that provide funding and expert assistance in implementing projects that protect natural resources.

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Natural resources grants

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. The Opportunity Grant application and guidelines can be downloaded here (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 January 2020

Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center stormwater conveyance and cistern reuse, Minneapolis

$18,700 to use rainwater as a resource, both for their daily operations as well as to interact with and educate the public on important environmental issues. This project will develop a stormwater conveyance to re-direct rainwater from its roof into a series of nine connected, 50-gallon cisterns. 

Common Roots Café catering water capture and reuse system, Minneapolis

$25,000 to install a rainwater capture and reuse system on site. 4,400 square feet of flat roof will be captured. Water will be filtered then connected to two toilets and a new irrigation system providing water for patio planters and boulevard planting along Lyndale Ave. 

Girard Park West woodland/wetland edge and swale/turf prairie buffer restoration, Bloomington

$22,500 to restore (i.e. remove and control invasives, plant natives in their place) their woodland area that is adjacent to an existing wetland on their property. In addition, they will regrade a sloped area to create a swale that will work to hold and infiltrate runoff from the building rooftop and restore a turf area to a prairie buffer restoration.

Friends of the Mississippi streambank habitat restoration, Minneapolis

$13,500 to create and enhance native habitat on 7.8 acres on Nicollet Island, 2 acres at Orvin “Ole” Olson Park, and more than 15 acres in the Mississippi River Gorge between April and November of 2020. FMR is proposing 10 volunteer-based (250 volunteers) events to help plant native species and remove invasive species on these sites. The Proposal is to plant 150 trees, 150 shrubs, 300 sedges, and 1,000 native plans/wildflowers.

Tangletown Neighborhood bio-swales and rain gardens project, Minneapolis

$7,000 to recruit and partner with local residents, Metro Blooms and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to install bioswales and raingardens on up to 15 Tangletown properties and boulevards in Minneapolis.

Opportunity grants awarded January 2020

The following larger projects will leverage multiple funding sources:

River Park redevelopment and natural resource improvements, Brooklyn Park

$100,000 to enhance its River Park, adjacent to the Mississippi River. Part of this enhancement will include stabilizing the banks of the Mississippi River, improving natural prairie habitats, and establishing additional stormwater protections. Stormwater protections include the creation of a stormwater pond to treat 300 acres of developed area upstream, of which 250 acres currently discharge into the river untreated. The project will also build a rain garden to treat new impervious surface created in the park.

Brook Gardens participatory landscape design, installation, and stewardship, Brooklyn Center

$75,000 to develop a plan, in partnership with Metro Blooms, for improving green space access and stormwater management on the Brook Gardens property. Phase 1 of the project will install four rain gardens to treat residential runoff currently flowing untreated to Shingle Creek. The project will also establish new shade trees and a “nature play” landscape design to better allow the low-income residents to interact with the natural spaces surrounding them. This Opportunity Grant will fund Phase 1 of this project.

Nine Mile Creek Watershed District best management practices on non-profit sites, five sites in Bloomington and Edina

$60,000 to install four large rain gardens and one vegetated swale to treat impervious surfaces on five non-profit's properties. This Opportunity Grant will fund $60,000 of the total project cost and will offset capital improvement funds utilized by the District.

Conservation easements

Conservation easements are one of the most effective tools for permanently preserving natural resource corridors, ecologically significant natural areas and other open spaces located on private lands. They restrict development and certain activities in order to protect natural features on a property in perpetuity without exempting the land from property taxes.

Hennepin County, in partnership with the Minnesota Land Trust, received a $1.5 million grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund to acquire conservation easements on the best remaining natural areas in Hennepin County. Funding is also available for habitat restoration projects on protected properties.

Learn more about land protection and restoration funding and support available.

Well sealing cost share program

The well sealing cost share grant program offers grants to Hennepin County property owners to recover a portion of the cost they paid to seal wells on their property that are no longer in use. Hennepin County will contract directly with eligible property owners that have applied for a grant and have received grant approval. The property owner must receive grant approval before any well sealing work is completed.

Note: well sealing activities that were completed prior to the property owner receiving grant approval will not be eligible for reimbursement.

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

Grant selection

The highest priority wells will be selected for grant approval, based on the merit of applications received. 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 ground water resources. The program will pay up to 75 percent of the well sealing cost, not to exceed $2,000 per well. The amount of funding available through this program is limited.

After receiving a completed application, the county will notify the applicant regarding their eligibility for a grant. If your well sealing project is eligible for grant funding, you must contract with a state-licensed well sealing contractor to 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.

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 Dan Boeding at 612-596-6627 or by email at daniel.boeding@hennepin.us.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment

State cost-share program

The state cost-share program provides financial and technical assistance to landowners who implement conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and/or sedimentation in order to improve water quality. The state program was established in 1977 and is administered locally by Hennepin County.

Eligible projects

Projects eligible for financial assistance must be designed for an effective life of at least 10 years and meet one of the following objectives:

  • Control nutrient runoff
  • Stabilize critical eroding areas
  • Divert runoff to protect and improve water quality
  • Reduce wind erosion
  • Control gully, rill, or sheet erosion
  • Protect shoreline from erosion
  • Control stormwater runoff
  • Protect surface water and groundwater quality

Practices eligible for state cost-share may receive funding of up to 75 percent of the total eligible costs of a conservation practice.

Technical assistance

Technical assistance provided to landowners who participate in the state cost-share program include:

  • Conducting a site investigation with the landowner
  • Working with the landowner to determine the best management practice (BMP) for the given situation
  • Surveying and designing the project
  • Producing a rough cost estimate
  • Providing the landowner with a designed plan for submission of bids
  • Performing a pre-construction conference with the contractor and landowner
  • Supervising construction
  • Certifying completion of the project

All practices must be approved prior to construction. Landowners are reimbursed upon completion.

For more information

See the State Cost-Share Program from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Agricultural best management practices loan program

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

  • 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

Ineligible projects

  • Conservation practices that are not agriculturally related
  • Refinancing of existing facilities, structures, equipment, etc.
  • Individual projects started or equipment purchased prior to loan approval

Loans are awarded as funding is available. Applications are accepted year round. Individuals will be 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.

For more information or to apply

For more information about the loan program or to apply for funding, contact Kirsten Barta at kirsten.barta@hennepin.us or 612-543-3373.

Minnesota buffer law

A new water quality initiative aimed at protecting Minnesota's waters was signed into law in 2015 and further modified in 2016. The buffer installation will reduce erosion and pollution from runoff by establishing about 110,000 acres of buffers along Minnesota waterways.

A buffer is vegetated land adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland. Buffers help slow the flow of water and filter out phosphorous, nitrogen, and sediment, which are all pollutants that degrade water quality.

Buffer law requirements

The law includes the following requirements:

  • Buffers an average of 50 feet and minimum of 30 feet must be installed along public waters by November 1, 2017
  • Buffers a minimum of 16.5 feet must be installed on public drainage systems by November 1, 2018
  • Buffers must be permanently vegetated and not contain noxious or prohibited weeds

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources is overseeing implementation of the buffer law, and they are working on program development. Learn more about the buffer program.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created buffer maps that will determine which waters are subject to the new requirements. Learn more about the buffer mapping project.

Implementation

Staff are available to assist landowners with staking of buffers, enrolling in conservation programs, and determining what to plant in the required buffer area.

If you would like to request a validation of compliance for any reason, email or mail the validation of completion form (DOCX) to Kirsten Barta at kirsten.barta@hennepin.us or

Hennepin County Environment and Energy
Attn: Kirsten Barta
701 4th Ave S, Suite 700
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Inspections

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) requires that all parcels requiring buffers be reviewed at least once every three years. Parcels are reviewed by aerial photo, and spot checks must be conducted on 15 percent of parcels.

Map of Hennepin County showing parcels that require buffers and how the county will be divided for inspections

To fulfill this mandate, Hennepin County staff will review aerial photos of parcels requiring buffers in one-third of the county each year. Additionally, spot checks will be conducted in the field on 5 to 10 percent of the reviewed parcels each year. Residents whose parcels will be spot check will be notified via letter.

The map shows the parcels that require buffers and how the county will be divided into thirds for inspections. The colors on the maps indicate:

  • Blue lined waters are public waters requiring 50-foot buffers
  • Green lines are public ditches requiring 16.5-foot buffers
  • Red lines are the sections of the county that will be reviewed on a three year cycle

For more information

Contact Kirsten Barta at kirsten.barta@hennepin.us or 612-543-3373 with questions or for more information.

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