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.


Good steward grants

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 3, 2017. To apply:

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.

Eligible applicants

All landowners are eligible to apply, including:

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

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

Grants awarded January 2017

Good Steward grants:

  • 3540 James Avenue South housing cooperative, Minneapolis: $15,000  to install up to six rain gardens and establish an area of prairie plants that will capture and treat about 80 percent of the runoff from the roof at the 14-unit housing cooperative located on 1.21 acres just east of Lake Calhoun.
  • Kenwood Isles Area Association, Minneapolis: $9,715 to install up to 15 rain gardens 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 15 rain gardens.
  • Private landowners, Dayton: $20,300 to restore 8,500 square feet of streambank along Rush Creek. The restoration will consist of establishing a dense native vegetation buffer to control erosion and enhance the stream corridor for wildlife by providing habitat for aquatic animals and pollinators.
  • Private landowner, Minneapolis: $4,500 to install three rain gardens on their home property and the rental property they own next door. The gardens will collect and store up to 1 inch of rainwater from 2,200 square feet of hard surfaces on these properties. Much of the labor will be provided by approximately 10 Boy and Girl Scout Troops as an educational and merit-badge-earning opportunity.
  • Private landowner, Minneapolis: $4,500 to install three rain gardens and a French drain on a multifamily residential site at 1315 29th Avenue NE. The rain garden will capture runoff from most of the property as well as the roofs and driveways of three neighboring properties.
  • Spark-Y, Minneapolis: $5,000 to work with the urban farm class at Roosevelt High School to establish a rain garden at the school. The garden will capture runoff from concrete sidewalks and a slope drain at the northwest corner of South 40th Street and East 28th Avenue. The gardens will be built by a team of Spark-Y summer interns. Permanent information signs and a walkway of permeable pavers will open the project up to the students and public.

Opportunity grants:

  • City of Greenfield: $25,000 to install a swale and stormwater pond to prevent surface water from the city’s Central Park from running into agriculture cropland below the park. This project will capture nearly all of the park’s runoff and reduce nutrients into the Dance Hall Creek Watershed and Lake Sarah. It will also create areas of native and wetlands that will include pollinator friendly plantings. This project leverages $44,500 in local grants.
  • Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission, Plymouth: $50,000 to stabilize and restore 21 streambank sections along 2,800 feet of Plymouth Creek. The project will prevent 52 pounds of phosphorus and 90,800 pounds of suspended solids from entering the stream every year. Plymouth Creek drains to Medicine Lake, which is impaired because it has too many nutrients. This project will leverage a $400,000 Board of Water and Soil Resources Clean Water Legacy Grant.
  • Metro Blooms, Minneapolis: $50,000 to work works with private property owners, including non-profits, businesses and institutions, in the Harrison Neighborhood of north Minneapolis to install stormwater best management practices throughout this community. They will focus on working with businesses along Glenwood Avenue to meet their revitalization goals and install projects that benefit water quality and protect natural resources. This area drains to Bassett Creek, which is impaired for bacteria. This project will leverage a $135,595 Board of Water and Soil Resources Clean Water Legacy Grant.
  • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Minneapolis: $50,000 to install at least six stormwater best management practices along targeted commercial corridors in Minneapolis. Practices may include tree trenches, underground infiltration systems, rain gardens and permeable pavement to the amount of nutrients, runoff, bacteria, sediment and chlorides flowing to the Mississippi River. This project will leverage a $150,000 Board of Water and Soil Resources Clean Water Legacy Grant. 
  • Riley-Purgatory-Bluff Creek Watershed District, Minnetonka: $50,000 to restore seven acres of oak savanna and woodland areas in the Scenic Heights School forest in Minnetonka. It will protect large native oaks, encourage desirable native species by removing buckthorn and weedy trees and shrubs, restore the ground cover with native plants, and replant the woodland area with transplanted local native trees. This project leverages $183,610 in local funding from the Minnetonka School District 246, the City of Minnetonka and the Riley-Purgatory-Bluff Creek Watershed District.

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

To find out more about eligibility requirements or to receive a grant application, call Dan Boeding at 612-596-6627.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

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 Greg Senst at or 612-348-4659.

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 compliance form (DOCX) to Kirsten Barta at or

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

For more information

Contact Kirsten Barta at or 612-543-3373 with questions or for more information.

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