Natural resources management and planning

Hennepin County delivers a variety of conservation services to protect our land and water. The county also coordinates with conservation districts and watersheds.

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Hennepin County natural resources strategic plan

Hennepin county’s natural resources strategic plan is intended to guide the county and its partners in responding to natural resource issues and developing internal and external policies, programs and partnerships that improve, protect and preserve natural resources.

The plan was adopted by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on May 24, 2016. 

Natural resources strategic plan

Read the natural resources strategic plan (PDF).

Get an overview of the plan by reviewing the natural resources strategic plan summary flyer (PDF).

Hennepin County soil and water conservation services

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) issued an order (PDF) for the discontinuance of the Hennepin Conservation District (HCD) and the transfer of all district duties and authorities to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on December 18, 2013. BWSR issued the order following their review of a petition filed by Hennepin County pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 383B.761.

As of February 12, 2014, all duties and authorities of HCD were officially transferred (PDF) to Hennepin County. Therefore, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 383B.761:

  • Hennepin County is now acting as a soil and water conservation district (SWCD) with all duties and authorities of an SWCD. The county board delegated all administrative authorities pertaining to the assumed duties to the county administrator through the adoption of County Board Action 14-0212 (PDF).
  • All contracts that HCD was a party shall remain in force, with Hennepin County being substituted as for HCD as party (MN 383B.761, subdivision 3).
  • Hennepin County is eligible for all grants that HCD was eligible for (MN 383B.761, subdivision 5).
  • Hennepin County will continue the delivery of soil and water conservation services throughout the county. Learn more about the conservation services offered by Hennepin County (PDF).

Conservation programs


Hennepin County provides the following soil and water conservation services throughout the county:

  • Enforcement of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). 
  • Conservation easement monitoring activities, including Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) conservation easements and Hennepin County conservation easements.
  • Environmental education and outreach through programs including River Watch, the Children's Water Festival, Envirothon and the West Metro Water Alliance (WMWA). The county also has environmental education resources and grant funding available.
  • Volunteer opportunities through the Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP), Stream Health Evaluation Program (SHEP), Master Naturalist and Master Gardener programs. 
  • Technical assistance to local governments.
  • Natural resources inventory and natural resources interactive map. Learn more.
  • Financial assistance through state cost-share, well-sealing, agricultural best management practices (BMP) loan program, natural resources grants and Green Partners grants. Learn more.

Special projects

Reports and links

Annual summaries

Natural resources management accomplishments

Aquatic invasive species program accomplishments

State performance review of Hennepin County conservation services 

Periodically, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) performs a detailed review and assessment of conservation district performance. BWSR completed this review for Hennepin County conservation services in July 2017. The review found that the county is meeting all basic performance standards and about half of the high performance standards. See the full Performance Review and Assessment Program report (PDF).


Budgets and financial reports

    Meeting minutes

    Partners and partnerships

    BWSR Natural Resources Block Grant reports 

    Local Water Management (LWM)

    Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS)

    Well sealing grants

    Wetland Conservation Act (WCA)

    SWCD program and operations grant reports

    Conservation delivery

    State cost-share

    Easement delivery

    SWCD organizational capacity grant reports

    • 2016 – not yet available

    SWCD buffer implementation grant report

    • 2016 – not yet available

    Disaster recovery assistance grant reports

    • 2016 – not yet available

    Provide public comment on transportation MS4 stormwater permit

    Hennepin County Transportation is responsible for managing 2,200 lane miles of roadway throughout the county. Part of that responsibility is proper treatment and discharge of stormwater. As a stormwater-generating public agency in an urban area, the county is responsible for applying for and maintaining a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.

    About MS4 permits

    MS4 permits are designed to reduce water pollution from non-point sources by controlling and regulating stormwater discharge. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is responsible for revising and issuing the MS4 permits as directed by the legislature and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Any public entity (including counties, cities, townships, and tribal governments) that owns a storm sewer system in an urbanized area must hold an MS4 permit. This does not include wastewater treatment, which is permitted separately.

    Hennepin County is responsible for the stormwater from the county road system, including right-of-ways. This includes water exiting construction and repair projects as well as from day-to-day operations of the roads. The county partners with local cities and other agencies to properly direct stormwater, reduce impacts, and achieve water quality goals.

    Public comment period

    As part of the reporting process, a public comment period or meeting is required to allow residents to provide comments and feedback. In order to reach more residents in such a large county, Hennepin has opted to have a public website in place of a meeting.

    The following documents are available for review and comment:

    Your feedback is encouraged and will be incorporated into future stormwater management operations where feasible.

    If you have any questions about Hennepin County’s permit, stormwater management, or to submit a comment, contact Kirsten Barta at or 612-543-3373. If you wish to submit your written comment by mail, address it to:

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

    Comments must be submitted or postmarked by December 31, 2018. All comments and responses will be publicly available by January 4, 2019.

    Thank you for your interest in helping Hennepin County protect its natural resources. Your feedback is valuable to continuing to improve county operations and reduce environmental impacts.

    Hennepin natural resources partnership

    The Hennepin County natural resources partnership provides a forum for a holistic and collaborative approach to managing and protecting our land and water. Everyone is welcome to attend, especially those from cities, watersheds, agencies and organizations involved with or interested in natural resources management and protection.

    Upcoming meetings

    November 2018: Three River Park District 2040 System Plan

    Thursday, November 15 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Ridgedale Library in the Lady Slipper Room.

    Learn about the Three Rivers Park District System Plan, with a focus on natural resources. Then join in group discussion about water resources management, habitat management, and high-priority natural areas. For more details, see the full agenda (PDF).

    2019 meeting schedule

    Meetings will be held quarterly in 2019. All meetings will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Ridgedale Library

    Meetings are scheduled for the following dates:

    • Thursday, January 31
    • Thursday, April 25
    • Thursday, July 25
    • Thursday, October 24

    RSVP and meeting topic ideas

    RSVPs are encouraged. RSVP and submit meeting topic and speaker ideas to Stacey Lijewski at or 612-348-9938.

    Meeting presentations

    June 2016: stormwater collection and reuse

    January 2015

    March 2015

    September 2015

    December 2015 


    Watersheds in Hennepin County

    What is a watershed?

    A watershed is an area of land that catches rain, snow, and any other form of water and drains to a lake, stream, wetland or groundwater.

    Watersheds come in all different shapes and sizes. Smaller watersheds drain into larger watersheds, much like a creek drains into a river. Some watersheds cross county, state, and even international borders.

    The rain water that falls on your house, lawn or driveway runs into a nearby lake, river or stream. This water, like all the surface water in Hennepin County, will flow into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. Actions taken to protect or pollute water will impact the quality of lakes, rivers or wetlands downstream.

    Notice of public hearings

    The Shingle Creek Watershed Management Commission (SCWMC) and West Mississippi Watershed Management Commission (WMWMC) will hold public hearings at their regular meeting on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 12:45 p.m. to receive comments on a minor plan amendment to their Third Generation Watershed Management Plan. The proposed minor plan amendments will add one project to the Shingle Creek Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and adjust the cost of another. In addition, the amendment will add one project to the West Mississippi CIP. The projects will restore and protect area water resources. The hearing will be held at the Clubhouse at Edinburgh USA, 8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. More information related to this public hearing can be found on the SCWMC website.

    Watershed organizations

    Watersheds are managed by either a Watershed Management Organization or a Watershed District. Both are considered a separate unit of government and are governed by a Board of Commissioners. Watershed District board members are appointed by the Hennepin County Commissioners, while Watershed Management Organization board members are appointed by individual city councils.

    Watershed organizations in Hennepin County

    The major watersheds in Hennepin County are:

    West Metro Water Alliance

    The West Metro Water Alliance (WMWA) is a working group of agencies with a common interest in water quality and stormwater management. The group collaborates on various projects related to education and outreach on water quality issues, including development of an e-newsletter, printed materials, education program, workshops and campaigns.

    WMWA partners include:

    Water Links e-newsletter

    Water Links is a monthly e-newsletter that features news, events, project updates and tips related to water quality issues.

    Read the past issues or sign up.

    WMWA environmental educators

    Environmental educators from WMWA are available to implement a series of lessons on watersheds and water quality in fourth grade classrooms. The lessons have been developed to meet the Minnesota State Science Standards and will be tailored for each school.

    Schools located with the Bassett Creek, Elm Creek, Shingle Creek and West Mississippi watersheds can request environmental educators to implement any or all of the following lessons:

    • What is a Watershed and Why Do We Care? - Includes an overview of the concept of a watershed, a look at the watershed where the school is located and an exploration of the threats to a watershed
    • The Water Cycle: An Incredible Journey - Explore the movement of water, the states of water and how water is polluted and cleansed as it moves through the cycle

    WMWA educators are also available to help you implement community/service learning projects, plan a school event and develop additional water-themed lessons.

    Email for more information or to request an educator at your school.

    Water quality educational resources

    Water quality brochure

    Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Minnesota's Lakes, Rivers and Streams brochure (PDF)

    Ten steps you can take in caring for your house and lawn that will help protect water quality.

    Water quality newsletter articles

    The articles developed by WMWA are provided for use by our partners in community newsletters, newspapers and websites to promote practices that protect water quality.

    • Adopt a Storm Drain (DOC) - Tips on protecting nearby nearby bodies of water by keeping storm drains clear.
    • Earth-friendly Lawn Care Tips (DOC) - Tips on maintaining a healthy lawn while minimizing your impact on the environment.
    • Five Easy Things (DOC) - Five easy steps you can take to improve the water quality of lakes, rivers and streams.
    • Rain Gardens (DOC) - Information about how rain gardens reduce runoff and resources that offer more information about installing rain gardens.
    • Water Quality Brochure (DOC) - 10 things that you can do to in your lawn, garden and around your house to improve Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams.

    The Wetland Conservation Act

    Hennepin County is responsible for enforcing the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) the county. The main purpose of WCA, which was passed in 1991, is to “achieve no net loss in quantity, quality, and biological diversity of Minnesota’s wetlands.”

    Under WCA, the draining, filling or excavation of wetlands is prohibited unless the activities are exempted or a wetland of equal or greater value is restored or created. Anyone proposing to drain, fill or excavate a wetland must first obtain proper permits. Check with your city to obtain necessary permits.

    Hennepin County staff work with landowners and developers in the planning stage of projects to first avoid, second minimize and finally mitigate any impacts they have on wetlands.

    County staff also work with landowners who have wetland violations on their property to restore the wetland to its preexisting condition or to create a wetland of equal or greater value. The specific requirements the landowner must comply with in order to resolve the violation are detailed in Restoration Orders written by county staff.

    For more information

    Agricultural inspection activities

    Hennepin County is involved in numerous agricultural program activities through the administration of the county agricultural inspection program. Examples include:

    • Biological control programs for terrestrial invasive species such as purple loosestrife and leafy spurge
    • Seed inspection and seed sampling program
    • 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 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.

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