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Wisconsin Lakeshore Restoration Project - Lakeshore Treatments and Techniques Used


Bioengineering and habitat restoration techniques utilized in the Wisconsin Lakeshore Habitat Restoration Projects

  • When properly designed and constructed, soil bioengineering systems have been used successfully to stabilize lakeshores worldwide.
  • Soil bioengineering is a system of living plant materials used as structural components.  Adapted types of woody vegetation (native shrubs and trees) are initially installed in specified configurations that offer immediate soil protection and reinforcement.  Erosion control products made of natural materials like coir/cocunut fiber, straw, and wood are also utilized.  Other deep and fibrous rooted native grasses, sedges, rushes, wildflowers, and ferns round out the plantings.  
  • As soil bioengineering systems develop roots into the shore, they help to stabilize slumping banks and protect the land / water interface from the forces of wave action and overland runoff.  Other ecological, social, and economic benefits derived from this woody and herbaceous vegetation includes diverse and productive riparian habitats, shade, interception of rainfall, organic additions to the lake, cover for fish, and improvements in aesthetic value and water quality.

The following bioengineering and habitat restoration techniques were utilized in the Wisconsin Lakeshore Restoration Project:


Native planting example from Found Lake

Native plantings: a lakeshore planting consists of different native trees, shrubs, ferns, wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and rushes; these plantings work toward reestablishing the vertical layering found on most lakeshores by restoring five tiers or layers of vegetation: canopy, understory, shrub, ground cover, and duff layer.  These lakeshore areas of natural or reestablished vegetation grow in with low maintenance.  Buffer zone plantings like these reduce the velocity of runoff, promote groundwater recharge, filter out sediments and provide shade to reduce the thermal impacts of runoff to receiving waters.  Buffers also provide habitat for wildlife like pollinators, aquatic insects, and songbirds; they also enhance scenic beauty in your lake community.

  • "350 sq. ft. native planting fact sheet"  Healthy Lakes team
  • "Native plant best practice companion guide"  Healthy Lakes team
  • "Shoreline alterations: natural buffers and lakescaping fact sheet"  Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • "Establishing no-mow zones: preventing erosion, intercepting runoff and protecting lake habitat Vermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Planting and maintaining vegetation areas: preventing erosion and intercepting runoff"  Portland Water District, Maine
  • "Planting and naturalizing areas: encouraging mixed hardwood forest"  Vermont Lake Wise Program

  • Coir log example from Found Lake

    Coir / coconut fiber logs (aka biologs): pre-fabricated, high-density coconut fiber products that provide erosion protection along shorelines, creating a microhabitat for establishment of bank stabilizing vegetation; also known as coir rolls or fiber logs.  Breaks up wave energy perpendicular to the bank; flexible product that can fit tightly to the bank.  It allows for rapid stabilization without much site disturbance; not appropriate for medium or high energy sites or ones with large ice build-up.  Manufacturer’s estimate product effectiveness is for ~6 to 10 years; they are often available in 12", 16", and 20" diameters and they have different core densities as well.  They usually come in 10- or 20-foot lengths.

  • "Coir log step-by-step installation fact sheet State of Alaska
  • "Vegetated coir log: coconut coir fiber logs information sheet"  Cardno Native Plant Nursery
  • "Coconut fiber log cross sectionChapter 16: Streambank and shoreline protection, Engineering Field Handbook, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

  • Coir blanket utilization example from Found Lake


    Straw mattings and coir rolled erosion control products (RECP): are some of the strongest and longest lasting erosion control products on the market today; also known as erosion control blankets (ECBs), coir mats work to increase soil stabilization, decrease erosion and allow vegetation to effectively take root.  Coir geotextiles are made from a natural and biodegradable coconut fiber.  Coir erosion mats are the perfect option for environmentally sensitive, steep slopes, or climates where shade or cold temeratures increase seed germination time; each product is designed to biodegrade over a specific period of time.  As the matting degrades, the erosion blanket works to enrich the surrounding environment and contributes to extended vegetative growth.

    The product is staked down according to manufacturer patterns and specifications, and used to protect either native seeding applications or plantings of small native plugs and bare root shrubs and trees.  Rolled  erosion  control  products  (RECPs) hold seed in  good contact with the soil to promote seed germination and soil stabilization; they are typically applied on slopes where erosion hazard is high and vegetation will be slow to establish.  To minimize wildlife entanglement and plastic debris pollution, choose temporary erosion and sediment control products that either do not contain netting, or that contain netting manufactured from 100% biodegradable non-plastic materials such as jute, sisal, straw, wood, or coir fibers.

  • "Erosion control mats and blankets fact sheet"  Soil and Water Management, Australia
  • "Soil erosion control mulches, blankets, and mats"  Minnesota Small Sites BMP Manual

  • Newly planted rain garden example from Found Lake


    Rain gardens: often an upland best practice, a rain garden is a landscaped shallow depression with loose soil and native plants designed to collect roof, path, and/or driveway runoff; they create both wildlife habitat and natural beauty, and they provide a mechanism for collecting stormwater in order to help it infiltrate back into the ground.  Pollutant removal by rain gardens can be affected by many factors, such as the types of plantings and maintenance of the rain garden.  Properly designed rain gardens can be very effective at reducing or eliminating several pollutants  that are of concern in Wisconsin including: total suspended solids (sediment/soil) - 23-81%; total phosphorus: 38-72%; nitrate (as N): 8-80%; lead: 62-91%; zinc: 63-76%; and copper: 53-65%.  Stormwater volume attenuation and flow reduction is 100% for small storms, 90% for large storms when antecedent conditions are dry, and 30-90% when antecedent conditions are wet.
  • "Rain garden fact sheetHealthy Lakes team
  • "Rain gardens: a how-to manual for homeowners"   UW-Extension / Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • "Rain gardens: controlling runoffVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Rain gardens: managing runoff in your backyardPortland Water District, Maine
  • "Rain garden fact sheet"  Charles River Watershed Association
  • "The Vermont rain garden manual: gardening to absorb the storm”  Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District
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    Live stakes example from Michigan

    Live stakes and live fascines: living woody plant cuttings capable of quickly rooting in moist soils; these vegetative cuttings are generally ½ - 2 inches in diameter and 1- 3 feet long and large enough to be pushed down lightly as stakes.  Live staking involves the insertion and tamping of these live, rootable vegetative cuttings into the ground.  If correctly prepared, handled, and placed, the live stake will root and grow.  A system of stakes creates a living root mat that stabilizes the soil by reinforcing and binding soil particles together and by extracting excess soil moisture.  Several willow species root rapidly and begin to dry out a bank soon after installation.  Live staking is most suitable for areas with low to moderate slopes.

    Long bundles of live branch cuttings placed in shallow trenches parallel or diagonal to lakeshore bank, and secured with dead stout stakes into the soil, at or just above base flow elevation. Often used in combination with erosion control fabric.
  • "Live staking vegetation: bank stabilzation fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Live staking: stabilizing the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes fact sheetPortland Water District, Maine
  • "Cross section"  Chapter 16: Streambank and shoreline protection, Engineering Field Handbook, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Encapsulated soil lift example from Found Lake

    Encapsulated soil lifts / vegetated geogrids natural or synthetic geotextile materials are wrapped around each soil lift between layers of native live branch cuttings or bare root stock.  They produce rapid vegetative growth and enhance conditions for colonization of native
    vegetation along the lakeshore.


    Shoresox example from Found Lake


    Shoresox system consists of a biodegradable and photo-degradable material that naturally degrades over a planned period; the containment system is filled with locally grown material like corn stalks, pine needles, vegetation compost, or oat straw.   The system is anchored to the bank. Small trees and shrubs and a groundlayer of herbaceous plants are planted with it; they grow in over time.
  • "Shoresox web siteShoresox

  • Enviro-lok bag example from Found Lake

    Enviro-lok bags: made of natural fibers, these biodegradable bags are engineered into ideally vegetated retaining walls; sometimes these bags are an eligible technique (via permits) when other types of construction are not, such as in environmentally sensitive areas like around root wads in backwater areas along lakeshores. The bags are usually planted with native plants in between the bag spacing or hydroseeded with native seed; extensive root systems grow around and into the bags.  Mature native plants, some with powerful woody and fibrous root structures, grow many feet into the earth locking the wall into place and even growing into the existing soil.

  • "Enviro-lok web siteEnviro-lok
  • Tree drop example from Lost Lake

    Tree drops: a fish habitat structure that is placed entirely in the riparian zone of the lake as determined by one of the ways outlined in Wisconsin state regulations; they can be secured to an existing tree on shore using a duck-bill anchoring system.

  • "WDNR fish habitat - tree drop exemption checklist"  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • "A second life for trees in lakes: as useful in water as they were on landMichael Bozek
  • Sediment log example from Little St. Germain Lake

    Sediment logs: consist of dense fibers that reduce hydraulic energy and filter sediment-laden runoff; they can be utilized along contour of slopes above the high water level to intercept runoff, reduce flow velocity, release the runoff as sheet flow and provide removal of sediment from the runoff.

  • "Curlex sediment logs: Excelsior erosion control device product description"   American Excelsior Company

  • Live stake plantings along the Vermillion River, a state recognized trout stream, in rural Dakota County, MN;
    photo courtesy of Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota (2004)

    Bioengineering resources, state standard, and guides:
    Water bar example from northwoods

    Other water conservation best practices suitable for lakeshore properties       

    Diversions:  consists of diverting stormwater runoff to safe areas of natural vegetation that are stabilized and allow for infiltration of stormwater that recharges groundwater; ex. a water bar intercepts runoff traveling down moderately steep walkways, paths, gravel driveways, and other areas and diverts it into stable, vegetated areass to reduce erosion.

  • "Diversion fact sheetHealthy Lakes team
  • "Rubber razors: managing runoff on gravel roads and driveways fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Water bars: ensuring clean runoff"  Portland Water District, Maine
  • "Water bars: ensuring clean runoffVermont Lake Wise Program
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    Rock infiltration example from Deer Lake, Polk County (Cheryl Clemens)

    Infiltration practices:  consist of diverting stormwater runoff to assorted areas, or using construction materials for patios, stairs, and driveways that are porius and they allow water to slowly infiltrate back into the ground; many of the practices work within the access and view corridors and on upland portions of the lakeshore property as well like around driveways, garages, out buildings, patios, and along the main sides of the home structure.

  • "Rock infiltration fact sheetHealthy Lakes team
  • "Vegetated swale: treating and conveying stormwater fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Infiltration steps: controlling erosion on steep paths fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Infiltration steps: ensuring clean runoff in recreation areas fact sheetPortland Water District, Maine
  • "Dripline trenches: controlling water runoff fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Rooftop downspout disconnection and dry wells; controlling water runoff fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Pervious pavement: controlling water runoff fact sheetVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Open top culverts: diverting water off roads and driveways fact sheet"  Portland Water District, Maine
  • "Dry wells: managing roof runoff from homes with gutters fact sheet"  Portland Water District, Maine
  • "Dripline trench: managing roof runoff on homes without gutters fact sheet"  Portland Water District, Maine
  • "Infiltration trenches: controlling water runoffVermont Lake Wise Program
  • "Infiltration trench: managing runoff from rooftops and paved areas fact sheetPortland Water District, Maine

  • Infiltration steps example from Maine

    Other design practices including rock toe and rip rap for high energy situations in need of stabilization:

    An underwater fish sticks example

    Other habitat conservation best practices suitable for lakeshore properties

    Fish sticks:  consists of a diverting stormwater runoff.
    University of Minnesota Extension

    Aquatic plantings:  consists of planting emergent, submersed, and floating native plants back in the nearshore area along the lakeshore; can be effectively planted around woody habitat best practices of new fish sticks and tree drops.


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