Surface Water Management Division
Lake Management Program: Lake Shoreline Buffers
The lake shoreline is the last line of defense for lakes. A naturally vegetated shoreline filters excessive nutrients and pollutants and stabilizes the shoreline from wind and wave action. Maintaining a strip or buffer of native plants along the shoreline can be an important step to protecting your lake.
Unbuffered Shoreline: When lawn extends into the lakeshore (or up to a seawall) nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants easily run into the lake during rainstorms. Unbuffered shorelines are also more susceptible to erosion and shoreline loss.
|Buffered Shoreline: A buffer of native vegetation is not only attractive but beneficial. Buffers slow stormwater runoff and trap harmful nutrients and and pollutants. They also help stabilize shorelines without costly shoreline armoring|
What is a lake shoreline buffer?
A buffer is in an area of natural vegetation that separates your home and lawn from the lakeshore. Buffers can also be planted behind seawalls and other barriers that have already been installed on the lake shoreline. Effective buffers consist of native plants that would typically be found on a shoreline. Buffers can be a mix of groundcover plants, shrubs, or trees and they can be completely natural or can be planned and landscaped.
What are the benefits of shoreline buffers?
Reduce the Amount of Nutrients Entering Your Lake
Buffers of native vegetation act like a sponge by filtering stormwater runoff. Storm runoff is filled with particles laden with nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants. The buffer plants slow down the runoff and trap particles preventing them from entering the lake. By slowing the water, the amount of groundwater infiltration also increases.
Protect and Stabilize Your Shoreline
Typical turf grass has a very shallow root system making shorelines with lawn susceptible to erosion caused by wave action and flooding. Native vegetation typically has deeper more extensive root system that holds the shoreline together. In fact, a well-planned buffer can be an excellent alternative to protective structures such as sea walls and rip rap. In addition, native plants will continue to function during flooding as they are accustomed to seasonal inundation.
Improve Habitat for Fish and Wildlife
Ninety percent of all lake life is born, raised and fed in the area where the land and water meet. Shoreline plants provide essential habitat and food for birds, amphibians, insects, and mammals.
Reduce Maintenance Time and Mowing
Mowing, watering, and caring for a lawn can be time consuming and costly. Replacing all or part of your lawn with native vegetation can save you time and money. Once established, native plants require little effort. They are accustomed to the climate and need little watering.
Deter Excessive Geese
Excessive geese and the mess they leave behind can become a nuisance. Geese are attracted to short vegetation adjacent to open water, making a lakeshore lawn an ideal feeding location. Vegetation buffers are an ideal method to prevent excessive geese in your yard. The taller vegetation reduces their line of site to the water making your yard a less desirable feeding ground. Find out more about coping with excessive geese.
Make Your Shoreline Beautiful
Buffers don't only benefit the health of your lake, but can increase the beauty and value of your property. A mix of native plants can supply structure to your yard and provide beautiful blooms or berries all year round. A well-planned buffers can also enhance your privacy while still maintaining lake views and access.
How do I create a shoreline buffer?
Lake buffers simply require having native plants grow along your shoreline. The easiest method to create a shoreline buffer is to stop mowing your lakefront. This is especially effective if you already have a few native plants growing that can spread to new areas. Although this method is easy and free, you may want to have a more landscaped approach. When planning a buffer the key elements to a buffer are as follows:
The resources below provide more specific information on shoreline buffer plans, specific plant information, and planting advice. You may also contact the lake management program (contact information below) for additional help or to schedule a free on-site consultation.
Buffer and Native Plant Resources
Native Plant Resources in Snohomish County: Snohomish County's native plants program provides planting instructions, lists of nurseries who sell native plants, and other plant resources.
King County Native Plant Guide (external): This site contains extensive information including pictures on native plants, landscaping guides, and local native plant nurseries.
Natural Buffers and Lakescaping: Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources guide to shoreline living which includes links to the publication Landscaping for Wildlife and Water Quality and the instructional CD Restore Your-Shore.
Gene Williams, Senior Planner, 425-388-3464 extension 4563
Marisa Burghdoff, Water Quality Specialist, 425-388-3204
Jen Oden, Water Quality Specialist, 425-388-3464 extension 4352