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  • Jodi Eberhardt

Willow Wattles Combat Wave Action on Lake Ossie

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

Gerard and Leslie Bodell purchased their property on Lake Ossawinnamakee in the late 90s. They have watched the lake change in 30 years from a quiet residential lake to one that is now quite busy. They have watched their shoreline erode from the powerful wakes from bigger motors and boats. They have also watched their neighbors restore their shorelines and use native plants to defend against the damage.

This year, they decided to take on a project of their own. With the help of Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District, they were connected with Laura Mendoza, a shoreline restoration consultant. Laura specializes in a technique that uses willow wattles as a buffer for the waves while the the native plants get started. The end result is a beautiful shoreline that prevents erosion and helps reduce the amount of nutrients going into the lake.

A willow wattle is a tightly tied bundle of long willow sticks that is staked into the shoreline. They will block the wave action and allow for the water to filter back through the willow to slowly trap the organic matter. It is a better solution than purchased biologs which are often moved by storms, do not allow water to pass through the structure, and takes a long time for plant roots to permeate and anchor to the lake bottom. A permit is not needed to install the willow wattle, but the DNR does require a permit to install plants below water’s edge.

The project was finished in about 4 hours with a group of 7 people. Here’s what they did:

Step 1: Lay out the willow on shore and tie the bundles tight with twine.

Step 2: Move the whole bundle to the water’s edge, protecting the entire shoreline. Pound 3-foot stakes into the wattles every three feet to keep them in place

Step 3: Plant deep rooted native plants behind the wattles to protect the lake from runoff, provide habitat, and help defend the lakeshore against wave action.

Want to do a project of your own?

The Pine River Watershed Alliance appreciates the Bodell’s efforts to protect water quality and share their story with other landowners.

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