Bluff Standards Update

The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District (LMRWD) updated its Watershed Management Plan in October 2018.  By State Statute, this update occurs every 10 years and local governments must comply with newly adopted standards.  Among the many updates to the Plan, the District established new standards related to land-disturbing activity along the Minnesota River Bluffs and other steep slope areas within the District. To align the City and Watershed District requirements, the City intends to update its Bluff Protection Overlay Districts and related Code Sections.

View larger map

The map above allows users to identify the extents of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District’s new bluff standard (orange) in comparison with the City of Bloomington's existing bluff protection overlay districts (transparent blue).  This map can be displayed in 3D by clicking and holding the right mouse button (or using 2 fingers while navigating on a mobile device).

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The informational meetings were held on January 21st, 22nd, and 29th.  Slides from the informational meetings are available here:   PDF icon InfoMeeting_Slides.pdf

Public Meetings are tentatively scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 11th - Sustainability Commission
  • February 20th - Planning Commission
  • March 16th - City Council

The staff report, draft ordinance, and related materials will be available roughly one week before the meetings.

Public Meetings

Public Hearings are tentatively scheduled for the following dates:

  • February 11th - Sustainability Commission
  • February 20th - Planning Commission
  • March 16th - City Council

Study meetings occurred in 2019.  The staff report and documents from the latest study meeting are available at the following webpage (page 5 of the staff report provides a simplified version of the steep slopes and bluff protection standards):

Steep Slopes Area

While many of the Watershed District's standards are consistent with Bloomington’s practices, a few amendments to the City Code are needed to ensure consistency.  Significant attention has been focused on standards for protecting steep slopes along the Minnesota River Valley from soil erosion. Bloomington has long taken steps to protect the bluffs along the river.  In 1982, the City adopted the Bluff Report District Plan, which provided the research and rationale for adoption of Bluff Protection Overlay (BPO) Zoning Districts that same year.  These districts protect areas situated between the 722 and 800 foot elevation lines along the River Valley bluff. 

The updated Watershed District Plan protects steep slope areas that have an average slope of 18 percent or greater measured over a horizontal distance of 25 feet or more, without referencing elevation lines.  This revised definition more accurately identifies areas with steep gradients, but the protected area varies from the City’s BPO District boundaries. 


Areas identified as having steep slopes by LMRWD's definition are subject to the standards in the following attachment  PDF icon LMRWD_Standards_Excerpt (Steep Slopes).pdf  once the Code is amended (by April 2020 at latest).

These areas may also fall within the City's existing Bluff Protection Overlay Zoning Districts, which are subject to standards found in the City Code Sections 19.38.11 and 19.38.12.

Lower Minnesota River Watershed District (LMRWD) Resources

The full Watershed Management Plan can be viewed at the District's webpage:

Updated standards are found in the Plan's Appendices:

Please note that the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District is fully independent of the City of Bloomington.

Best Practices along the Bluff

Minimize stormwater runoff down the bluff

  • Consider maintaining an unmowed strip of land, 10 to 20 feet, from the top of steep slopes; let deep-rooted vegetation anchor the top of the bluff slope and the bluff itself
  • Minimize impervious (paved) surfaces and mowed lawn area
  • Direct runoff from paved surfaces into vegetated areas
  • Direct runoff away from the bluff edge to prevent soil erosion

Manage soil erosion

  • Stabilize bare slopes
    • Be careful when removing invasive species, which may leave soils bare and prone to erosion
    • Cover bare soils with biodegradable erosion control blankets and/or logs
  • Plant bare areas with seedlings or seeds of native species and mulch

Maintain a Healthy, Native Bluff Environment

  • Properly dispose of yard waste, including grass clippings, leaves, twigs, and pet waste (Not over the bluff)
    • Clippings may contain chemicals that wash off into the waterways
    • Clippings also decompose and release nutrients, such as nitrogen, which attracts invasive species
    • Piled yard waste, when left to sit, kills the underlying vegetation.  This exposes those soils, and makes them more susceptible to erosion.
  • Consider planting native species along a 10-20 foot buffer from the top of the slope
  • Learn to identify invasive species, and consult best practices for control

The above best practices are adapted from techniques identified in the MN DNR's Conserving your blufflands booklet that was intended for property owners along the St. Croix River.  

Additional information about bluff and steep slope protections are found in the MN DNR's shoreland management best practices here:

Best practices for eco-friendly yards are provided by Hennepin County's website here:

Grant Resources

Grants are available to private property owners for small and large projects that implement some of the best practices listed above.

Hennepin County offers Natural Resource Grants for a variety of projects that preserve and restore natural areas.  More information is found here:

The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District offers a Cost-Share Grant for properties within its district (see map above).  More information is found here:

For properties in the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, there is also a Cost-Share Grant available to landowners.  More Information is found here:

The Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District also offers grants to landowners within its district for small and large projects. Learn more here: