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Managing rural and agricultural land

Hennepin County, in coordination with state agencies and programs, provides funding and technical assistance to landowners managing agricultural, large lot, and rural land.

Learn about your land using the natural resources interactive map. In the map, you can select data layers to see existing conservation easements and some land designations including ecologically significant areas and natural resources corridors.

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The Hennepin County Landowner Guide is intended to help landowners care for their land and the natural resources on their property. The guide recommends practices that can be implemented to protect and enhance natural systems. Each section also suggests additional resources and publications that offer more specific information for each subject area.

Download the entire guide (PDF 7MB) or download a specific section:

  • Protecting water resources (PDF)
    Information on ways to protect water resources such as determining your watershed, taking care of your shoreline, and avoiding or controlling invasive aquatic species
  • Preserving wetlands (PDF)
    Information on wetland types, the Wetland Conservation Act, identifying wetlands and way to protect wetlands on your property
  • Managing pastures and livestock (PDF)
    Information on proper pasture management, proper manure management, preventing water pollution, cleaning up dirty water and maintaining healthy soils
  • Maintaining wells (PDF)
    Ensure that you and your family have a healthy source of drinking water by maintaining your well, testing you well, treating contaminated water and managing unused wells
  • Maintaining septic systems (PDF)
    Protect groundwater by properly maintaining your septic system, getting your septic system pumped regularly, and keeping garbage out of your system
  • Managing your waste (PDF)
    Information on proper management of garbage including hiring a waste hauler, eliminating burn barrels, reducing waste, recycling, collecting organic waste and and properly disposing of household hazardous waste
  • Resources (PDF)
    A list of resources and publications with additional information for landowners on protecting and conserving natural resources

This resource was produced by Hennepin County in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension.

Hennepin County cost-share grants

Funding and technical assistance is available to landowners for projects that improve water quality by reducing erosion and controlling stormwater runoff. Contact Kris Guentzel at kristopher.guentzel@hennepin.us for more information.

Landowners may receive funding of up to 75 percent of the total eligible costs of installing a conservation practice. All practices must be approved prior to construction. Landowners will be reimbursed when the project is complete.

Eligible projects

Projects that reduce stormwater runoff, stabilize eroding areas, protect shorelines from erosion, and reduce wind erosion are eligible. Projects must be designed to be effective for at least 10 years.

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.

Project selection

Annual funding for this program is very limited. Hennepin County works hard to ensure that the funding is well-spent on projects that have the most impact and address the county’s priorities.

To evaluate projects, county staff work with residents to describe the project, estimate the cost, and estimate a quantifiable conservation benefit.

Potential projects are reviewed no more than once per quarter, and county staff make decisions about proceeding with projects after this review. If a project is not selected, it may be put on hold for future consideration if the resident is still interested or declined if county staff don’t funding the project is feasible.

Technical assistance

Landowners participating in the state cost-share program receive technical assistance from natural resources staff. Assistance includes:

  • Conducting site visits and determining the best practices to install
  • Surveying and designing the project
  • Producing a rough cost estimate
  • Providing the landowner with a designed plan for submission of bids
  • Meeting with the landowner and contractor prior to construction
  • Supervising construction
  • Certifying completion of the project

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 include conservation practices that are not agriculturally related, refinancing of existing facilities, structures, and equipment, or projects started or equipment purchased prior to loan approval.

For more information and to apply

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 about the loan program or to apply for funding, contact Kevin Ellis at kevin.ellis@hennepin.us.

Hennepin County natural resources grants

Grants are available to landowners for projects that preserve and restore natural areas and reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment flowing into lakes, streams, and rivers. Common projects include rain gardens, swales, and other projects to slow stormwater runoff, prairie and native vegetation restoration, and streambank stabilization and erosion control. Learn more about the natural resources grants.

Well sealing cost share

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. Eligible property owners can receive reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the well sealing cost, not to exceed $2,000 per well. Learn more about the well sealing cost share program.

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years.

Through this program, certified producers receive:

  • Regulatory certainty: certified producers are deemed to be in compliance with any new water quality rules or laws during the period of certification
  • Recognition: certified producers may use their status to promote their business as protective of water quality
  • Priority for technical assistance: producers seeking certification can obtain specially designated technical and financial assistance to implement practices that promote water quality

Contact Paul Stewart at paul.stewart@hennepin.us if you are interested in getting certified.

About the buffer law

Minnesota's buffer law requires perennial vegetative buffers along lakes, rivers, streams, and ditches to protect water quality by filtering out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment.

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.

Hennepin County has effectively achieved 100% compliance with the buffer law. The county continues to monitor to ensure compliance with the buffer law, especially when property transfer occur.

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
  • Buffers a minimum of 16.5 feet must be installed on public drainage systems
  • Buffers must be permanently vegetated and not contain noxious or prohibited weeds

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources oversees implementation of the buffer law. Learn more about the buffer program.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created buffer maps that determine which waters are subject to the 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 Paul Stewart at paul.stewart@hennepin.us or

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

Maintaining and improving buffers

There are many things you can do to maintain and improve buffers once they are in place. Use the following factsheets from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to extend the lifespan and improve the environmental impacts of buffers.

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 Paul Stewart at paul.stewart@hennepin.us with questions or for more information.

Inspection, registration, and management programs

Hennepin County administers numerous agricultural registration, inspection, and management programs, including:

  • Biological control programs for terrestrial invasive species such as purple loosestrife and leafy spurge
  • Seed inspection and seed sampling
  • Fertilizer registration inspection and sampling
  • Pesticide licensing and registration inspections
  • Pesticide applicator inspections
  • Waste pesticide collections
  • Empty pesticide container collections
  • Enforcement of the Minnesota noxious weed law

Noxious weeds

Noxious weeds are plants that are injurious to public health, the environment, public roads, crops, livestock and other property. Prohibited noxious weeds must be controlled or eradicated as required in Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 18 section 18.78. Each city in Hennepin County has one or more local weed inspectors. For more information about noxious weeds in your city, or to report noxious weeds, contact your local weed inspector.

For more information regarding the county-wide administration of these programs, please contact the county agricultural inspector at 612-348-4659.

Chemigation permits

All growers who apply fertilizer (fertigation) or pesticide through an irrigation system that is connected to a water supply must obtain a chemigation permit from Minnesota Department of Agriculture prior to chemigating. For more information or to apply for a permit, please contact MDA Chemigation permits at 651-201-6057 or visit MDA's chemigation permit program page.

Sub-watershed assessments

Sub-watershed assessments analyze specific geographic areas to learn where pollution in certain bodies of water comes from. Conducting this type of analysis helps to identify specific opportunities and priorities for reducing pollution. In the assessments, potential projects are ranked and prioritized based on the potential to reduce pollution and cost-effectiveness.

These opportunities are largely on private land, making it critical for landowners to get involved by taking actions to reduce pollution. Installing practices that reduce pollution can also help address drainage issues or improve manure storage and animal health. The county provides financial and technical support to landowners to help make those changes.

Sub-watershed assessments have been conducted for the following areas in Hennepin County.

Rush Creek

Several lakes and streams within the Elm Creek watershed do not meet state water quality standards, and cities within the watershed are to reduce the amount of pollutants flowing into these lakes and streams.

The subwatershed assessment focused on the area that is the headwaters for Rush Creek and the Rush Creek South Fork, including Henry Lake and Jubert Lake.

The sub-watershed assessment is being used to help landowners, cities, and other interested parties find the most impactful and cost-effective ways to improve water quality in Rush Creek, Henry Lake, and Jubert Lake. The SWA will also be helpful in applying for grant funding to help landowners and cities undertake voluntary pollutant- removing practices. This SWA was performed in the overall area mapped below.

See the sub-watershed report and a map of the area studied on the Elm Creek Watershed website.

Lake Independence and Lake Sarah

Lake Independence and Lake Sarah are on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list of impaired waters for aquatic recreation (swimming).

The City of Independence has phosphorous reduce goals identified in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies for these lakes to help achieve water quality standards. The sub-watershed assessment identifies cost-effective practices within the City of Independence to reduce phosphorous loads into Lake Independence and Lake Sarah.

See the Lake Independence and Lake Sarah stormwater retrofit analysis (PDF).

Dance Hall Creek

Lake Sarah is on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list of impaired waters for aquatic recreation (swimming). The primary cause of impairment is phosphorous.

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study conducted for Lake Sarah determined that the Dance Hall Creek Subwatershed contributed 46 percent of excess phosphorus to Lake Sarah. The sub-watershed assessment identified cost-effective practices that would reduce phosphorous loads into Lake Sarah by 50 percent or more.

See the Dance Hall Creek sub-watershed assessment (PDF 10MB).

Lake Ardmore

Lake Independence and Lake Ardmore are on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's list of impaired waters for aquatic recreation.

In the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study conducted to determine phosphorous reduced needed to Lake Independence to achieve water quality standards, each city contributing to the Lake Independence watershed — Independence, Loretto, and Medina — were assigned a phosphorous reduction target.

The Lake Ardmore sub-watershed assessment identifies cost-effectives practices with the City of Medina to reduce phosphorous loads flowing into Lake Ardmore and Lake Independence.

See the Lake Ardmore sub-watershed assessment (PDF).

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