GFP has programs available to enhance shoreline buffer zones

Rhet Russell GFP Fisheries Biologist
Farm Forum

There’s no doubt people are attracted to water, and many lakes in South Dakota are either heavily developed or are being developed at a quick rate. As a result, many of the lakes in the eastern half of the state have lost as much as 90 percent of their naturally functioning habitat.

Losing this habitat, or the natural buffer around our lakes, often leads to poorer water quality, which in turn can lead to the “pea soup” algae blooms that we are all too familiar with. Poor water quality also results in increased frequency and intensity of summer and winter fish kills.

If you are a lakeshore property owner currently experiencing a loss of shoreline due to erosion, or perhaps you’re mowing a steep slope or a wet area that can be a hassle or possibly hazardous, then you may be a candidate for a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department program. The program is designed to restore some shoreline property back into a natural shoreline habitat comprised of native plant species.

There are several benefits to shoreline buffer plantings. Many native plant species have extensive, deep-rooting systems up to 14 feet deep that help lock the shoreline in place to help prevent erosion during high water periods and also during heavy rain events. By comparison, a typical Kentucky bluegrass lawn has a very shallow root system of just a few inches.

Studies have also shown that a 30-foot-wide buffer planting can remove up to 85 percent of the phosphorous before reaching the lake or stream. Trapping excessive nutrients like this is critical to preventing algae blooms. Native shoreline plantings also provide a rich, diversified habitat for a wide variety of animals, ranging from fish to butterflies.

Shoreline buffer plantings can be combined with modern landscaping techniques to help enhance the natural beauty of a property and reduce maintenance needs, giving property owners more leisure time while at the lake. GFP has several areas set up as demonstration sites on many lakes throughout the region, so if you have any interest in restoring your shoreline property back to a more native habitat, please stop by the GFP office in Watertown or give me a call at 605-882-5200.