Sustainable Development Initiative for Cook County
Cook County, MN

Grantee: Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Basin Program Funds: $9,600
Non-federal Funds: $3,760
Project Duration: 07/1995 - 11/1995
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Land alteration for commercial development and seasonal residences is rapidly increasing in Cook County, Minnesota. Cook County SWCD has specific approval authority regarding erosion control under Zoning Ordinance #37, especially on driveway and Lake Superior Shoreline development. However, there is little enforcement due to lack of staff and training.

Planning is necessary to avoid unsustainable development for lakeshore habitats.

The goal of the Sustainable Development Initiative was to demonstrate the need for increased technical assistance for the Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in an effort to provide increased resource protection in this fragile region.

Cook County is located in the far Northeastern part of Minnesota. It shares boarders with Lake Superior, Lake County, and Canada. It is unique among Minnesota's counties in that it consists of land that is historically non-agricultural and, to a large extent, owned by the state and federal government.

Currently, tourism, recreation, and seasonal residential development are flourishing in Cook County. The number one need identified in the Watershed Plan of the Lake Superior Association of SWCDs (of which Cook County SWCD is a member) is to enhance local staffing and technical capabilities to provide increased technical assistance to landowners.

The Great Lakes Basin Program committed $9,600 over a five month period to: 1) support a technical staff person to inspect building sites to ensure that the County Zoning Ordinance is followed; 2) formalize an agreement between Cook County and the Cook SWCD regarding erosion control duties; and, 3) demonstrate the effectiveness of a full-time(seasonal) SWCD inspector.

A seasonal erosion inspector was hired to inspect erosion control practices at new building construction sites and road and driveway development sites. The erosion inspector was also responsible for providing reports at monthly SWCD board meetings and regular updates to County planning and zoning staff, as well as revising the Cook SWCD Annual Plan to reflect sustainable development concerns in Cook County.

Thirty new building sites were visited. Nine of the sites required some form of technical assistance to prevent soil loss. This indicates a 30% improvement or “success rate” for 1995 developments. In all cases, the sites were assessed and the landowner sent information and recommendations regarding the appropriate soil control measures.

In order to increase the effectiveness of the limited resources of the SWCD, the inspector recommended that a one page informational flyer be developed to describe the objectives of the SWCD and to list their services available to the public. A packet of best management practice guidelines are now issued to every new construction permittee.

The inspector visited ten Lake Superior shoreline property sites. Pictures of the problem areas were drawn, as well as maps developed to show the proximity of septic systems, buildings, other possible accelerators of erosion problems, and potential obstacles to beach side construction of preventive structures. This information was passed on to the Cook and Lake Co. SWCD conservation specialist for further assessment.

The majority of county roads and 17 old gravel pits were also assessed for potential erosion problems. A 1993 Soil Conservation Service/Cook County roadside erosion survey was reviewed to compare erosion rates between then and now and the effectiveness of measures taken. The primary erosion contributors in 1993 are no longer problem areas, however four new problems areas were identified.

The inspector prioritized county erosion problems in the county to be Lake Superior shoreline, followed by road erosion and new construction site erosion.

The Great Lakes Basin Program has leveraged $3,760 from non-federal sources.

Contact: Mark Nelson, (218) 723-4752


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner