Sustainable Development Initiative for Cook County
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Basin Program Funds:
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.
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
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