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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Streambank & Lakeshore Protection

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide


Streambank & Lakeshore Protection

NRCS staff planting vegetation to stabilize a streambank. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.
NRCS staff planting vegetation to stabilize a streambank. Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

Here riprap is placed on a streambank to prevent further erosion. Photo courtesy of Hawk Creek Watershed Partnership.
Riprap is large rocks placed in areas experiencing erosion that cannot be controlled with vegetation. Here riprap is placed on a streambank to prevent further erosion and water quality degradation from sediment. Photo courtesy of Hawk Creek Watershed Partnership.

Gabions are wire baskets filled with large stones that are used to stabilize shores and prevent erosion. Photo courtesy of the USDA NRCS
Gabions are wire baskets filled with large stones that are used to stabilize shores and prevent streambank erosion. Photo courtesy of the USDA NRCS.

Streambank and lakeshore protection involves using vegetation or materials such as riprap or gabions to stabilize stream, river or ditch banks or lake or reservoir shores, protecting them from erosion or sloughing. It also includes removing snags or debris from banks and channels to improve stream flow and minimize bank erosion caused by high-velocity water flowing around the obstructions.

Sediment loading is a major water quality concern in Minnesota, and streambank erosion is a significant source of sediment in some Minnesota landscapes. Streambank and lakeshore protection is especially important for restoring and protecting surface water quality in these landscapes.

Diagram showing how obstructions can alter a stream's course and cause bank erosion. Image courtesy of Ohio DNR
Diagram showing how obstructions (fallen trees, logs or other debris) can alter a stream's course and cause bank erosion. Image courtesy of Ohio DNR

Why protect streambanks and lakeshores?

  • Stabilizes banks and shores, preventing further erosion and degradation
  • Improves water quality by reducing sediment loads in surface waters
  • Helps maintain the capacity of waterways to handle floodwaters, preventing flood damage to utilities, roads, buildings and other facilities
  • May aid compliance with Minnesota drainage laws and shoreland regulations
  • May avoid or lower landowner or government expenses for dredging sediment from lakes and drainage ditches
  • Enhances habitat for fish and other aquatic species by improving water quality and moderating water temperature
  • Creates cover for wildlife if vegetation is used
  • Beautifies banks and shorelines

Diagram of an eroded streambank before and after restoration. Image courtesy of Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group.
Diagram of an eroded streambank before and after restoration. Slope shaping and vegetation are used to stabilize the bank and prevent erosion. Image courtesy of Stream Corridor Restoration: Principles, Processes, and Practices - Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group.

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Similar & Related Practices

  • Streambank and lakeshore protection is often used together with riparian grass filter strips or forested buffers to enhance erosion control and water quality benefits.
  • Streambank and lakeshore protection often involves livestock exclusion and fencing. Exclusion is needed particularly for deeply incised streams, high vertical streambanks and streambanks with sand and gravel soils.
  • Streambank and lakeshore protection is an important consideration in rotational grazing systems.
  • Another closely related practice covered in this Conservation Funding Guide is stream habitat management.

More Information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other Resources

See also resources for Riparian Buffer - Grass Filter Strip and Riparian Buffer, Forested.

Contact

See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District