Green Notes October: Natural resources grants available, become a Minnesota Water Steward, how to reduce contamination in organics recycling

green notes

Grants available to preserve and restore natural resources

Parking lot with a storm drain and trees and shrubs where water will flow during rain

Hennepin County offers natural resources grants to landowners, which include individuals, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses. 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.

There are two types of grants available:

Good steward grants

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. Applications are due Thursday, November 19.

Opportunity grants

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. Applicants are encouraged to use these funds as match funding dollars for other funding sources. A typical grant amount is $25,000 to $50,000, with a maximum amount of $100,000. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis through December 2.

Learn more and apply. For more information, contact Kris Guentzel at

Natural resources opportunity grants awarded to protect water quality

Natural resources opportunity grants totaling $180,000 were recently awarded to two projects that will protect and restore the county’s natural resources, engage the community, and improve water quality.

Reducing phosphorous and associated algal blooms in Lake Cornelia in Edina

Nine Mile Creek Watershed District was awarded $96,248 to develop a filtration basin that will clean water flowing into a small lake in Edina’s Rosland Park, which is upstream of Lake Cornelia. The basin will improve treatment of water flowing off of 410 acres of urban land, including Southdale Mall. A feasibility study found this practice to be one of the most cost-effective solutions to reduce phosphorous and associated algal blooms in Lake Cornelia.

Engaging the community to create green space and protect water in Cedar Riverside

Cedar Riverside Limited Partnership was awarded $83,752 to work with residents of Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis to transform concrete areas into green spaces, rain gardens, and other stormwater management features to capture and clean water on site and provide outdoor spaces for residents. The features are projected to capture 627,000 gallons of water annually to remove sediment and phosphorous that would otherwise flow into the Mississippi River. A significant component of this project is involving the community in design, implementation, and maintenance.

Leveraging additional funding sources

Opportunity grants help partners implement large projects by focusing on leveraging significant external funding sources. The two grants awarded will leverage more than $700,000 in watershed, state, and private sources of funding.

Become a Minnesota Water Steward

Woman planting in a rain garden

Water defenders and artists wanted! Applications are being accepted for two unique cohorts of Minnesota Water Stewards. All stewards take part in a year-long training program consisting of five months of online learning and a capstone project. The capstone project will differ for the two cohorts.

Traditional stewards will plan and implement a best management practice, such as a rain garden, and conduct a community outreach project for their capstone.

Storm drain painted with reminder that it drains to river

Artist stewards will design and implement a public art project or performance that inspires behavior change related to water health for their capstone. Applicants must be working artists at any level of experience with an interest in water and be a resident of Hennepin County.

Training begins in January 2021. Hennepin County is partnering with Freshwater to sponsor Minnesota Water Steward cohorts for 2021.

Learn more and apply

Applications for Hennepin County stewards are due by November 20, 2020. Anyone interested in participating should attend an upcoming virtual information session on Tuesday, November 10 or Tuesday, November 17.

Funding to Minnesota Central Kitchen supports food rescue, addresses food insecurity and provides employment

Minnesota Central Kitchen logo with someone putting food into meals in background

The county board recently approved $100,000 in funding to support the continued operation of Second Harvest Heartland’s Minnesota Central Kitchen. The program rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and uses it to provide meals to those in need while offering employment to kitchen and restaurant staff that would otherwise be out of work. The program started in April 2020 in partnership with Chowgirls Catering and Loaves & Fishes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program initially employed 139 people and provided 45,000 meals per week to people experiencing food insecurity. Most of the food used to make the meals is surplus donated food. Second Harvest Heartland expects a 70% increase in demand for donated meals, with about 233,000 additional people facing food insecurity.

Providing meals to people experiencing food insecurity aligns with the county’s goals of reducing racial disparities in health, and preventing food waste helps meet the county’s goals of reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information, contact Carolyn Collopy at

Comprehensive study finds Lake Minnetonka is free of invasive algae

A study by the Lake Minnetonka Association funded by a Hennepin County aquatic invasive species prevention grant has produced some good news. Their bi-annual survey for the invasive starry stonewort found none of the invasive algae in Lake Minnetonka. The comprehensive study involved sampling at 16 of the busiest private and public accesses to the lake and 1,000 private sites, making Lake Minnetonka one of the most carefully monitored lakes in Minnesota.

Photo of person's hand holding starry stonewort

Starry stonewort is a highly invasive algae that spreads rapidly and forms dense mats that can make boating and recreation difficult. It is spread primarily by the movement of boats and water-related equipment from infested lakes. Starry stonewort has never been eradicated from a lake once it is established, and it is costly to manage. The invasive algae was first found in Minnesota in 2015 and is now found in 16 lakes, including Medicine Lake in Hennepin County.

Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

Boaters, anglers, and other lake users can take the following actions to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:

Woman reaching for a weed underneath a boat on a trailer
  • Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment
  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping drain plugs out while transporting watercraft
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash

Some invasive species are small and difficult to see on your boat or equipment. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving infested waters:

  • Spray with high-pressure water
  • Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds)
  • Dry for at least 5 days

Cost-share funding helps landowners address erosion and manure storage while protecting water

A cost-share grant from Hennepin County using funding provided by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources recently helped the Meyers in Rogers install drainage improvements and a manure storage bunker on their property where they keep horses in order to address manure management and protect water quality. The landowners were having issues with water running through their barn and paddock after rain, and they needed to find a way to keep manure out of a wetland area.

Manure bunker built on Meyer property with horses and barn in background

The project involved installing a drainage system and barn gutters to intercept water moving across the property to keep the paddock and barn dry. A manure bunker was also constructed to keep nutrients and bacteria out of the wetland. These changes will keep phosphorous, a nutrient that contributes to algal blooms in lakes, and E.coli out of the wetland system that feeds into the headwaters of Rush Creek.

The cost-share grant covered 75% of the total project costs, and an extra 15% of funding provided by the county and Elm Creek Watershed Commission helped reduce the landowner’s costs by 90%. This project is an example of the technical and financial assistance that Hennepin County provides to landowners managing agricultural and rural land.

For more information, contact Kirsten Barta at or 612-543-3373.

Grants available to salvage building materials during your next home remodeling project

House frame being deconstruction with pile of wood in foreground and workers in the house in background

Reduce the impact of your next home improvement project by salvaging, reusing, and recycling building materials. Grants of up to $5,000 are available to homeowners in 17 cities to offset the added costs of deconstruction and salvage over traditional demolition.

So far, nine deconstruction grant projects have been completed and seven more projects are in progress. Materials commonly salvaged on projects include light and plumbing fixtures, cabinets, doors and windows, wood flooring, and dimensional lumber. Grantees point to the environmental benefits of deconstruction as the main draw to the program. Learn more about the grants, including eligibility and requirements, and apply online.

Green Tip: How to reduce contamination in organics recycling

In September, Hennepin County began enforcing stricter limits on the amount of non-compostable material that can be in the organics recycling delivered to the county’s Brooklyn Park Transfer Station. Most organics recycling collected in the county from businesses, schools, multifamily housing and other commercial programs is delivered to this facility before being sent to a compost site.

These stricter standards and focus on reducing contamination are happening to ensure the viability of local organics composting facilities and the organics recycling programs they support.

The county is encouraging businesses, organizations, and schools to take the following steps to ensure that the organics recycling they collect is clean and free of contamination. Similar steps can also be taken at home.

Group of images that are not accepted for organics recycling with red noids over them

Put the correct materials in the organics recycling

Make sure you know what is accepted for organics recycling and keep out items that can’t be composted.

Items that cause the biggest contamination issues include glass, plastic items, plastic-coated paper items like coffee and soda cups, fast food wrappers, condiment packets, and uncertified to-go containers.

Simplify what you collect or where you collect it

Chef putting leftover pizza into clearly labeled organics recycling bin
  • Food is the most valuable material to collect for organics recycling, so consider switching to collecting food waste only in situations with persistent contamination issues.
  • Consider stopping the collection of organics in challenging areas, such as public-facing areas at a business.
  • Keep your waste stream straightforward by using only reusable or compostable items. Make sure that any compostable items you use are BPI certified compostable.
  • Assess all items available and eliminate non-compostable things like plastic utensils, plastic straws, plastic stir sticks, and individual coffee creamers.
Organics recycling rollout with two green team members standing by bins at Boston Scientific

Label your bins and offer training

Place clearly labeled bins for recycling, trash, and organics recycling together. Hennepin County provides free signs and labels to businesses and organizations.

Make regular training on your waste system and waste sorting mandatory.

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