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 updated its Bluff Protection Overlay Districts and related Code Sections through ordinances adopted on June 1, 2020.

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The map above allows users to identify the extents of the city's bluff standards (green) and where there are additional standards for areas with steep slopes (red).  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).


Areas within the Bluff Protection Overlay District are subject to the standards found in the City Code Section 21.208.02.

An outline of bluff protection standards and additional standards for areas with steep slopes is provided in the following table:   PDF icon Standards Outline

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:


Public Meetings

Public Hearings ocurred on the following dates:

  • June 1st - City Council (adopted amendments)
  • April 6th - City Council (item be continued)
  • March 16th - City Council (item continued)
  • February 20th - Planning Commission (recommended approval)
  • February 11th - Sustainability Commission (recommended approval)

Study meetings occurred in 2019.  The staff report and documents from the latest study meeting are available at the following webpage:

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