Plant and maintain a vegetative buffer of trees, shrubs, taller grasses and wildflowers between the shoreline and upland areas.

Shoreline buffers trap runoff before it gets into waterways. As stormwater seeps through the buffer area, the plants filter out pollutants and sediment, reduce and regulate the water flow, and moderate water temperatures.

Planting a Shoreline Buffer.

Start simple. 

Begin by allowing your shoreline to rebuild itself. Mowing to the water’s edge discourages native plant growth and encourages runoff and erosion. By allowing your shoreline to rest, the dormant seeds of native plant species will take root.

Bigger is better.

For optimum benefits a bigger buffer that is at least 100 feet wide (75 feet of trees, shrubs, taller grasses and wildflowers plus 25 feet of residential lawn upland) from the water’s edge to the first pavement or structure on the property is best. Any buffer helps, so if 100 feet is not an option, work within the size constraints of your property.

Add more native plants.

More than just beautiful, native plants are adapted to local soil conditions and rainfall, thereby reducing the amount of water and time you’ll spend on upkeep. Additionally, their deep roots can help infiltrate runoff, filtering out toxins.

Limit the turf grass.

Keep it to upland areas or use it to create trails or pathways through your buffer to access your shoreline.

Don’t forget native aquatic plants.

Their deep root systems help stabilize and clean water while providing food and habitat for aquatic life. Allow these plants to thrive as much as possible by giving them plenty of space free of disturbance.

Control aquatic INVASIVE plants.

Learn how to identify and remove aquatic invasive plant species without spreading their growth. Often times, invasive plant species are spread by pulling out the plant by hand which makes the situation worse. Root and plant fragments can resettle and spread seeds to other areas.

Learn even more about Buffers from HRWC.

We studied buffers in the watershed as part of a two-year project and incorporated our findings into a summary report with recommendations.

*Additionally there are communities in the watershed that have enacted ordinances protecting riparian buffers including Green Oak Charter Township and Scio Township. And HRWC is working with several communities on buffer protection ordinances in the Portage Creek Implementation Project.

Additional Resources

Michigan Native Plant Producers Association is a group of independently owned nurseries that grow and sell Michigan native plants and seeds.

Michigan’s Natural Shoreline Partnership provides resources on natural shorelines and landscaping. Find helpful designs, lists of plant species and where to place them, workshops, cost comparisons, professionals, and instructions.

Michigan Lakes and Streams Associations provides information and publications to educate homeowners and links, and references on how to manage Michigan’s lakes and streams.