Soil and Water Conservation District

Highway 371 Reconstruction and Lake Bemidji South Shore Native Vegitation Restoration

MnDOT proposed in 2003 to realign the Highway 197 corridor along the south shore of Lake Bemidji. The proposal included many partners – the Beltrami SWCD, City of Bemidji, Beltrami County, MNDNR, and businesses within the corridor - to name a few.  This project went on to be nationally recognized for its progressive designs and integration with the environment.
Educating the public about the many benefits of the native buffer was originally proposed to be included in Phase I of the MnDOT project. However, after further consideration the MnDOT recommended it be deferred as a Phase II request.   The City of Bemidji applied for the Phase II funding request and the educational component was included.   Even though the Phase II application was funded the native buffer educational component was not selected for funding by the City of Bemidji.
In 2011 the SWCD sought funding from the MnDOT for educational signage for pedestrian, bicycle, and other non-motorized traffic within the highway right-of-way.  The signs as proposed were to educate the public on the:

  • multitude of benefits of the native vegetation (grasses and wildflowers) specifically selected for its suitability to shoreline restoration

  • selected species will retain sediments, prevent erosion, uptake nutrients, and capture discarded refuse & litter

  • benefits of improved water quality which helps support the local tourism and fishing economies, and property values and tax revenues

  • benefit to keep geese from encroaching within the traffic corridor improving driving safety

  • buffer which was designed to require minimal maintenance and be self-sustaining much like the native environments found on many non-altered lakeshores

  • improvements to lakes fisheries from the installation of rock spawning beds and how the reduction of sedimentation will have a positive impact on the success of aquatic egg hatches

Staff worked with RedZest Designs and Pannier Graphics on the signage design layout and fabrication.  MNDOT staff completed the installation of the signs along the south shore trail in September 2014.  A broad-reaching public educational effort recognizing the project completion is planned and will include local newspapers, radio, and local television to highlight the commitment to finalize this outstanding project.

Hwy 371 Corridor through Bemidji
During Construction
After Construction
After Construction
Interpretive Sign


Shoreline Tested by 2014 Ice Push - A late April ice push caused by strong north winds created the “perfect storm” to test the strength and durability of the South Shore shoreline restoration.  The ice caused minimal damage to the established vegetation and dislodged a small amount of the rock rip rap.  This event helped to validate the project’s long term goal to create a functional ecosystem that exhibits good erosion control and shoreline stabilization.




  • 701 Minnesota Ave NW, Suite 113
    Bemidji, MN 56601
    218-333-4158 F: 218-333-8486