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. Funds are often used for required matches for other funding sources. A typical grant amount is $25,000 to $50,000, with a maximum amount of $100,000.

See the Natural Resources Grants flyer (PDF) to learn more about the difference between the grant types.

Eligible applicants

All landowners are eligible to apply, including:

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

Applying for good steward grants

We are accepting applications online through the Supplier Portal.

Upcoming applications are due Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 3 pm.

To access the Response For Proposal (RFP) and apply:

  • Visit the Supplier Portal.
  • You can view the separate RFPs and materials by clicking the Natural Resources grant RFP in the Events panel on the right half of the screen.
  • To apply, follow the on-screen instructions.

You will need to be registered to submit an application. For detailed instructions on how to register and submit an application, including video tutorials and more, visit the Supplier Portal information page.

For reference, you can access downloadable versions of the Good Steward application and guidelines here: grant application (DOCX), grant guidelines (PDF).

Funding available

Approximately $60,000 will be distributed this grant round. Awards vary depending on the project, the amount of available grant funding and the list of applications received. No funding match is required. Grantees can start incurring costs the day after County Board approval.

Applying for opportunity grants

Applications are accepted at any time. Funds are limited and awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Contact Jim Kujawa at or 612-348-7338 for more information.

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.

The county awarded 11 natural resources grants totaling $400,000 in January 2019.

Good steward grants awarded January 2019

Fairway Woods Condominium, Inc., Eden Prairie

$24,750 to divert the roof water from a condominium building into four rock swales that will flow into two rain gardens. In addition, four eroded areas will be regraded and restored with erosion control mats and reseeded with a lawn mix or native prairie mix. This project will directly improve the water quality of Purgatory Creek.

Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, Minneapolis

$12,000 for a neighborhood-based effort to install up to 20 rain gardens on private property. The rain gardens will filter stormwater and improve the water quality of Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek.

Private landowner, Winchester Pond, Bloomington

$9,000 for the second phase of a project to improve Winchester Pond. Two additional rain gardens will be constructed within the watershed draining to this pond/wetland, and two additional floating islands will be installed in Winchester Pond to help filter pollutants. Along the shoreline, invasive species will be removed and native vegetation will be planted. This project will improve water quality in Nine Mile Creek and the Minnesota River.

Schmidt Lake Improvement Association, Plymouth

$12,225 for a neighborhood-based effort to install up to 15 rain gardens and native plant buffers on private property. These projects will filter stormwater and improve water quality of Schmidt Lake.

Opportunity grants awarded January 2019

The following larger projects will leverage multiple funding sources:

Bull’s Horn, Minneapolis

$32,500 to install a rain garden, two 500-gallon cisterns, and two permeable paver parking stalls to treat parking lot and roof runoff before it flows into the city storm sewer system. This project will improve water quality in Minnehaha Creek.

City of Crystal, Becker Park

$100,000 to install a 72,000-square feet underground infiltration system in Becker Park. The project will reduce total phosphorus to Upper Twin Lake, an impaired water.

City of Medina

$60,000 to construct a new stormwater quality pond and stabilize and reduce runoff to an existing gully during a street and utility improvement project. This project will improve water quality in Elm Creek.

Elm Creek Watershed Management Commission, Fish Lake, Maple Grove

$20,000 for the second year of alum treatment in Fish Lake to reduce the internal phosphorus load in the lake by at least 310 pounds per year. This project is projected to result in Fish Lake meeting water quality standards for phosphorus for at least the next 20 years. It will also improve water quality in Elm Creek.

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Minnehaha Creek, Edina

$32,500 to restore 2,150 feet of Minnehaha Creek. This will include adding 230 feet of new stream and removing a 4-foot high dam. Additionally, stormwater from an 84-acre area will be treated in filtration structures and swales to remove 33 pounds of phosphorus and 1,800 pounds of sediment each year. The project will enhance six acres of wetland, restore 10 acres of woodland, and improve wildlife habitat.

Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Columbia Golf Course, Minneapolis

$100,000 to modify storm sewers and install regional water filtration and infiltration systems, such as ponds, engineered soils, and native plantings, in the northern portion of Columbia Golf Course. The practices will capture and treat stormwater from 600 acres that currently drains to the Mississippi River untreated. The project will improve water quality in the Mississippi River by removing 20 tons of total suspended sediments and 100 pounds of total phosphorus each year.

Northgate Academy, Minneapolis

$55,000 for the installation of rain gardens during reconstruction of the building and parking lot. The rain gardens will reduce the amount of water runoff, phosphorus and sediments flowing into the city storm sewer by 96 percent. The stormwater practices at this site will be used as part of training program for careers in hydrology, civil engineering, soil science, horticulture and related topics. This project will improve water quality in the Mississippi River.

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

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 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.


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 or

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


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 or 612-543-3373 with questions or for more information.

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