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

Two types of grants are available:

  • Good steward grants 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 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

Applications are being accepted now for good steward grants. Applications are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, November 9, 2018.

New application process for 2018

Applications must be submitted through the new online Supplier Portal.

To access the RFP and apply:

  • Visit the Supplier Portal
  • View the application materials by going to Grant Opportunity - Good Steward Grants
  • You 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

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.

Projects awarded

The county awarded seven natural resources grants totaling $170,865 in January 2018. 

Good Steward Grants awarded January 2018

  • Minneapolis Public Schools – Field Community School, Minneapolis: $19,665 to install two rain gardens and a vegetated drainage way to capture runoff from the staff parking lot and a portion of the paved playground and sidewalks. This will benefit water quality in Minnehaha Creek. The Conservation Corps of Minnesota along with students and community volunteers will construct and plant the rain gardens. Permanent signage and enhanced fifth through eighth grade learning curriculum will be part of this project. The project will also positively benefit water quality in Minnehaha Creek.
  • Metro Blooms and Nokomis East Neighborhood, Minneapolis: $18,650 to install five runoff control systems, including 11 rain gardens, one vegetated drainage way, two native plantings and one permeable pavement system on private properties throughout the neighborhood. Metro Blooms will prepare site specific designs and work with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to prepare and install the projects. The project will positively benefit water quality in Minnehaha Creek.
  • Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association, Minneapolis: $10,000 to install up to 20 rain gardens throughout this neighborhood. Metro Blooms will prepare site specific designs and work with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to prepare and install the projects. The project will benefit water quality in in Lake Hiawatha and Minnehaha Creek.
  • Private landowner prairie restoration, Independence: $5,450 tol restore native, pollinator-friendly habitat on 4.5 acres. This project will increase habitat for pollinators and ground-nesting birds in the Pioneer Creek and Crow River watersheds.
  • Private landowner shoreline stabilization, Independence: $10,600 to install ravine and bank stabilization practices on a property adjacent to Lake Independence that will control and eliminate gully and unstable shoreline areas. These practices will benefit water quality in Lake Independence.
  • Private landowner pond project, Bloomington: $6,500 for the neighborhood to improve the water quality of Winchester Pond. The project will install three rain gardens, restore upland buffer vegetation and install two floating islands. This project will improve water quality in Nine Mile Creek and the Minnesota River.

Opportunity grants awarded January 2018

  • Metro Blooms, Autumn Ridge Apartment retrofit, Brooklyn Park: $100,000 for Metro Blooms, the City of Brooklyn Park, Sherman Associates and residents to develop a five-year stormwater retrofit plan for the 17-acre apartment complex. This grant is for the first two phases of the plan and will include 12 rain gardens, four trench drains, 1,000 square feet of native planting areas, and 530 square feet of permeable pavement systems. The grant will leverage an additional $100,000 in Shingle Creek Watershed grants and a 25 percent match from Sherman Associates. This project will improve water quality in Shingle Creek.

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, call Dan Boeding at 612-596-6627 or email him at 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

Projects NOT eligible:

  • 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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