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Frequently Asked Questions


What is a shoreline buffer?


Shoreline buffers are a natural barrier that prevents runoff into a lake, river, and other waterways.  Think of it as a living, self-sustaining protective shield; anything that prevents water from running into the waterway, including native plants and shrubs, rain gardens, and rain barrels.


Why should we be concerned about runoff into our waterways?


Runoff has been identified as the number one threat to our waterways because it carries nutrients into the water.  These nutrients can cause:


  • Weed growth

  • Algae blooms

  • Water murkiness

  • Reduced dissolved oxygen, which impacts aquatic life, including fisheries


The impact of runoff may not appear obvious because most of it happens under water and it occurs over time.


Will a shoreline buffer block my view of the water?


No.  A shoreline buffer can be as simple as low profile plants and shrubs that resemble a garden plot.  In fact, flowering plants that are native to our area can create an attractive addition to your landscape.  A plot that covers as little as ten feet of your shoreline will enhance your landscape and create an effective barrier – anything is better than nothing!


Why isn’t grass an effective shoreline buffer?


The grass has a shallow root system which only extends about two inches into the soil, whereas the roots of native plants can extend several inches and even a couple feet or more.  This not only helps prevent shoreline erosion but also provides a much better filter before water reaches the lake, especially during heavy rainfall.  As a bonus, the natural habitat created by a shoreline buffer will attract native species such as frogs, turtles, butterflies and more.


How much does it cost to create a shoreline buffer?


Like any landscape project the cost can vary significantly.  Cost depends on factors such as:


  • Size of the area

  • Size and quantity of plants

  • How much you do yourself versus having a professional landscaper design and install the buffer

The cost could be as little as a hundred dollars for a 10 foot by 16 foot area that you install yourself, to several thousand dollars if you have your shoreline buffer professionally designed and installed using mature vegetation over a large area.


Are any funds available to help cover the cost of installing a shoreline buffer?


The Wisconsin DNR has grants available to provide funding assistance to individual property owners.  They have promised a simple, streamlined application process to make it easy for property owners to take advantage of the funds available. Shawano County also has a program to provide financial assistance to property owners interested in installing a shoreline buffer. If you would like more information, contact SAWM at


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