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Cooperation among Neighbors Helps Restore Shore Along O’Dowd

If you found yourself driving along the western edge of Lake O’Dowd last fall, you probably got a glimpse of the one of the largest shoreline restoration projects undertaken on that lake. Excavation equipment and piles of boulders peppered the small sliver of land between Townline Road and the water’s edge. The operation on the surface looked like a well-choreographed dance: complicated, yet efficient. But underneath the construction, the backstory of how this project came to be is a testament to neighborhood cooperation and stewardship.

The project started back in 2017 when lakeshore residents Michael and Sonia Hoppe attended a workshop put on by the Scott SWCD. The workshop informed them not only about the negative consequences of unnatural and receding, but the solutions to those problems as well. For years, the Hoppe’s had noticed decreasing water quality on O’Dowd, which can be contributed to many things including development, increasing boater traffic, and excess nutrient runoff. The two were looking for a way to help mitigate those problems.

After attending the workshop, the Hoppe’s knew they needed to use their newfound knowledge to help the lake they have spent 20 years of their life on. They wanted to restore the shoreline right outside of their home—which stretched out to nearly 400 feet. What made their aspiration more complex than your typical shoreline restoration was twofold. Their property line and shoreline are intersected by County Road 79. And the shoreline parcel was actually owned by their neighbor two doors down, Richard Seppi.

Seppi owned that small strip of land for years. He enjoyed and shared the land and lake access with the Hoppe’s, and over the years the neighbors were able to enjoy the space and scenery together.

The Hoppe’s set up a meeting with Seppi, as well as the two other neighbors whose houses were across from the proposed project. The neighbors spoke of the lake’s struggles and the changes they’ve witnessed and what they could all do to help. For the lake shore owners, the decision was easy: restore the shore!

Right from the start, this project has demonstrated what amazing things can be done when neighbors work together.

“Working with Richard has been amazing,” says the Hoppe’s. “We felt like this project was also a way to thank him for giving us access to the lake. Richard put his trust in us to coordinate the project.”

The project then went into the Hoppe’s hands. They enlisted the help of Scott SWCD Engineering Technician, Todd Kavitz, and Natural Resource Specialist, Meghan Darley to provide project oversight for their restoration. The Scott SWCD was able to help the Hoppe’s with things like project design, contractor contact, cost estimates, neighbor communication, and even funding to cover part of the construction costs.

The designs were drawn up in 2018 and finalized in early 2019, with construction beginning and finishing in the fall of 2019. Michael and Sonia were on the construction site almost daily, giving workers a hands-on perspective of the entire project. One thing the Hoppe’s say that made the project go so smoothly was the help of the SWCD’s professional staffwho monitored the construction process and ensured the project was being built according to plans and specifications. The shoreline was restored with native vegetation that created a ten foot buffer between the previous shoreline and the water’s edge. With the careful planning, the use of rocks (or “rip-rap”) was able to be minimized , and placed only where necessary to to prevent undercutting from wave action. As with any shoreline restoration project, the goal was to return the land back to it’s more natural condition, prior to being developed. This project serves as a quintessential example of how that works.

Today, over 400 feet of shoreline on Lake O’Dowd has been successfully restored and stabilized against erosion. This feat was made possible thanks to the efforts of Michael and Sonia Hoppe, and the cooperation of their fellow lakeshore neighbors like Richard Seppi. This project not only will protect O’Dowd’s water quality for years to come, it also serve as an example of Scott County resident’s incredible character and dedication to their neighbors and the environment.

If the Hoppe’s have one other hope about the long-lasting benefits of their project, it’s that other O’Dowd residents take the opportunity to see how beautiful a natural shoreline looks. “I would really love to see more lake property owners take advantage of our local resources to preserve their shorelines,” Michael Hoppe says. “We can all help preserve the shoreline and help with water quality for our beloved lakes.”

If you are interested in your options for restoring your shoreline, we want to help! The SWCD offers technical assistance and information to anyone looking for where to start. We also may offer financial assistance for residents starting a restoration project with the office. To get the process started, call us at 952-492-5425 or email us at

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