Improve and Protect Your Shoreline: Tips for New Lake Home Owners

Many of us grow up dreaming of living on a beach or having the chance to live next to open water.

This allows for access to water activities and some cooling down, ice fishing if you live in Minnesota, etc. One thing that might not come to mind immediately though is the chance to help the environment and create a much more beautiful ecosystem, right in your backyard.  

Taking care of your home's maintenance is obvious for those wanting to sell or just keep the value of their home. However, being able to contribute directly to the very nature one is living in, can be especially rewarding. Here's our list of benefits to the lake that you can be a part of, as well as some actionable ways to make a difference:

  • Water quality

  • Lakeside home value

  • Curbing pollution at the source

  • Creating a cleaner and more enjoyable lake

Shoreland Homeowners and Stewardship

When you own shoreland you do have certain rights and privileges, it's what separates lake living from any other kind of lifestyle.

Homeowners are able to put a dock out to a navigable depth; take water for domestic and agricultural purposes; and to fish, boat, hunt, and swim. However, these rights must be exercised in compliance with local rules and regulations and those of the State of Minnesota or North Dakota for example. Some rules require removal or preservation of certain aquatic plants; placement of wells; and maintenance of septic systems.

These rules are in place for the benefit of your health and safety and the health of the lake.

The overall quality of the water can be improved with some simple techniques. It's our responsibility to protect, improve, and enhance the lake for your enjoyment and that of future generations to come, keeping in mind that the water itself is a public resource for everyone to enjoy.

That’’s called stewardship.

The lake is a living ecosystem and part of the larger ecosystem of all living plants and animals to which we also belong. In Minnesota, we are lucky to have Eagles live around the lake. That is something we do not want to go away. As the lakeshore habitat deteriorates, local species lose their habitat. Although there's nothing wrong with lake home ownership, it just has to be done right.

Also, healthy waters equal higher property values.

Here are a few tips to help your enjoyment of the lake, and also preserve its ecological integrity.

Simple Fixes for a Lake Home

Many people think owning lakefront property requires installing a seawall and clearing natural vegetation to make way for a lawn. However, it's actually quite simple to take proper care of the shoreline.

Contrary to popular belief, high-impact development activities like seawalls and other shoreline structure installation, natural vegetation clearing, and removing aquatic plants and fallen trees from the lake change the ecosystem and allow increased stormwater runoff, increased shoreline erosion and loss of habitat.

Eliminate the use of fertilizers near water or wetlands.

By law since 2005, Minnesota homeowners cannot use fertilizers containing phosphorus, except for exemptions for new lawns or when a soil test indicates a need for phosphorus. Otherwise, it can run off into the lake and effect PH.

In much of our area, soils are naturally high in phosphorus so lawns generally don’t need extra phosphorus. When shopping for fertilizer, buy a brand that has a middle number of zero like 22-0-15.

The laws do not prohibit retailers from selling phosphorus fertilizers, and even though most retailers are carrying more zero phosphorus fertilizers, it's up to you to make sure you comply with the law.

If you have leftover phosphorus fertilizer, using it on the garden, that is away from the lake facing portion of the house, is a good way to dispose of it.

Before you consider fertilizing your lawn, aerating it is an easy way to give new life to the yard at the beginning of the season.

•If you have to fertilize in sunbaked areas, or the like, try to use the minimum amount needed to replenish the soil.

Ways You Can Contribute to Clean Lake Water

A clean lake is vastly more enjoyable than one covered in weeds and with debris making visibility difficult. It also contributes to the water temperature. A clean lake will warm up much quicker, and in this area that is very desirable for lake area residents. Here are a few things to add to your list for a clean lake:

  • Proper lawn care

  • Pet waste disposal

  • Shoreline erosion control

  • Septic system maintenance

Runoff is the main culprit here. It can pick up pollution and carry it to the lake.

This can be reduced by minimizing hard surfaces on your property and limiting clearing and controlling the grading of your landscape. It can also be captured and cleansed so it doesn’t reach the lake by using shoreland vegetative buffers and by redirecting it to rain barrels

Never use near the lake:

Remove dandelions and other unwanted plants from your lawn using hand-tools instead of chemical applications.

Keep grass clippings, leaves, and washed up plant debris out of the lake.

Use a mulching lawn mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn as a natural fertilizer, just keep in mind that excess material can be blown around with a good strong wind.

•Collect and compost leaves and clippings, or haul them away from the lake to for disposal.

Do not burn leaves near the lake. Instead, locate fire pits away from the shoreland.

The leftover ash from burning wood is very high in phosphorus. If the fire pit is located near the lake, rain can wash the ashes into the lake. Locate the fire pit at least 50 feet away from the lake.

Properly Dispose of Pet Waste

Improper disposal of pet waste not only jeopardizes water quality but your health as well. Pet waste contains phosphorus and may contain disease-causing organisms, which, if washed into the water, can make it unsafe for swimming.

Pick up pet waste in the yard or near the shore and dispose of it properly.

Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy a more clean, safe, and beautiful season out on the water when Summer arrives. If you're curious about other ways to improve the value of your lake home, check out the rest of our blog.

Dirk Ockhardt