Heron Lake Watershed District saves family's Fulda Lake shorelineFULDA — When Ann and Don Lubben purchased their lake-front property in Fulda in 2005, they inherited a problem that had been festering for years
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
FULDA — When Ann and Don Lubben purchased their lake-front property in Fulda in 2005, they inherited a problem that had been festering for years. Fulda Lake’s waves, fueled by western winds, were attacking their lakeshore and gradually taking their well-manicured lawn with it.
A sea wall had been in place along the 145-foot-long shoreline when the Lubbens bought it, and previous owners attempted to keep the wall in place by filling in gaps formed by eroding soil with rocks and bricks.
“That didn’t help,” said Don, who began checking with other lakeshore owners about possible solutions. It was a Fulda City Council member who ultimately put the Lubbens in contact with the Heron Lake Watershed District.
The HLWD had acquired funds — a 319 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and a Shoreland Habitat Restoration grant from the Department of Natural Resources — to do at least a couple of projects on Fulda Lake.
“Ross (Behrends, HLWD technician) came out and said this needed to be fixed right away,” recalled Don.
The condition of the Lubbens’ sea wall, referred to as a “wall of shame” by Ann, was deemed the highest priority along the lake after HLWD staff walked the shoreline.
Working with the Lubbens, the HLWD designed a shoreline stabilization project that incorporated thousands of native plants known to generate deep root systems, which would help keep the soil in place on the shoreline, rather than erode into the lake. In addition, since the Lubbens wanted to remove six large, old and dying pine trees from their back yard, a 600-square-foot rain garden was designed to take their place.
The rain garden is a planted depression that allows rainwater runoff from impervious areas — the roof of the Lubbens’ home and garage, their driveway and walkways — to be absorbed into the soil.
“Roof water carrying dirt, twigs and leaves is piped underground into the rain garden, where it will infiltrate the ground rather than flow across the lawn and into the lake,” explained Behrends, adding that the gardens are designed to soak up the water from a 1-inch rain event within four hours.
The rain garden was established with 14 species of wildflowers, four kinds of native grasses and four types of emergent vegetation, such as bulrushes and sedges.
At the same time, HLWD employees began the process of saving the shoreline. The old sea wall was removed in May 2009, dirt work was done and a coconut fiber biolog was anchored in place to block wave action and create an area to establish emergent vegetation. Boulders were placed in front of the biolog to protect it from ice expansion when the lake froze, and behind the log stretched a coir erosion blanket to stabilize the hillside and reduce erosion. A 25-foot-wide filter strip extended the length of the Lubben shoreline, coming nearly up to the patio on the back of their home.
Approximately 4,000 plugs — both grasses and forbs — were planted in the filter strip and beneath the coir blanket, with Ann and her sister doing quite a bit of the work.
“The plants, some of them weren’t any bigger than my finger,” Ann said of the plants purchased from Prairie Restoration Inc.
Preferring a more natural-looking shoreline, their floral mix includes asters, black-eyed Susan, irises, daylilies and others.
“We didn’t know what would grow and what wouldn’t, and we didn’t know how tall they would grow,” she said. Most of the plants thrived — so much so that the Lubbens began thinning them out this past summer. The plants removed from the shoreline were incorporated into other projects in the community, including the Fulda Heritage Society Memorial Shoreline.
“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Ann said of their shoreline restoration.
While the grants covered the design costs, dirt work, biolog, blanket and plants, the Lubbens chipped in their own money to install bullet pavers along the filter strip to define it and make it easier to mow, and they also paid for the new steps that now lead to their dock.
With confidence now that they aren’t losing any more of their lawn to the lake, and being able to enjoy the beauty of the blooming prairie flowers along their shoreline, the Lubbens are pleased with the results of their project.
“It took care of our erosion problem with our wall, and we had a better access to the lake with the shoreline we put in,” said Don. “It was good for all of us. It’s going to help improve the lake water quality without the erosion and the fertilizer and stuff going in.”
“This lake used to be a good lake, and now it is again,” Ann added.
The shoreline restoration on the Lubben property was completed the same year the lake was treated with Rotenone to kill the fish populations. The lake has since been restocked with panfish and game fish.
“The lake is used a lot more now, and the water clarity is unbelievable,” Don said.
Not only are they able to see the fish swimming in the lake, they are also noticing more vegetation growing up from the lake bottom.
There are no other shoreline restoration projects currently planned along Fulda Lake, although HLWD administrator Jan Voit said if people are interested in the program, their name can be placed on a list to be used as a basis for future grant applications.