The study area is located in a rural setting in Wilkin County just to the east of Breckenridge, Minnesota, approximately 180 miles northwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Otter Tail River is located in the upper portion of the Red River Valley watershed. A major reach of the river upstream of Breckenridge, Minnesota, was the subject of a flood control project constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1950’s. It involved straightening, cleaning enlarging the river for drainage improvement to local agriculture. The overall length of the river in this reach was reduced from 18 miles to 11 miles as a result of the project. The straightened channel decreased channel length, increased channel grade, increased channel conveyance, increased bank erosion, and reduced the flood profiles in the lower Otter Tail River watershed.
Wahpeton is in Richland County in eastern North Dakota, approximately 55 miles south of Fargo, North Dakota. The Red River of the North and the Bois de Sioux River border the city on the east. The confluence of the Otter Tail River with the Red River of the North is located at Wahpeton. The city of Breckenridge, Minnesota, lies east across the Red River of the North from Wahpeton.
Project locations: Orwell Lake on the Otter Tail River, approximately six miles southwest of Fergus Falls, Minnesota; Highway 75 Dam on the upper Minnesota River near Odessa, Minnesota; Lac qui Parle on the Minnesota River near Montevideo, Minnesota; Red Lake Dam located at the outlet of Lower Red Lake in the northeastern part of Clearwater County, Minnesota.
Project locations: Homme Lake, two miles west of Park River, North Dakota, on the South Branch of the Park River; Lake Ashtabula (Baldhill Dam), 12 miles northwest of Valley City, North Dakota, on the Sheyenne River; Lake Darling, operated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 20 miles northwest and J. Clark Salyer Wildlife Refuge, is 65 miles northeast of Minot, North Dakota.
The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area is a major health, educational, cultural and commercial center. The area is prone to flooding. The Red River of the North has exceeded the National Weather Service flood stage of 18 feet in 51 of the past 113 years (1902 through 2014), and recently every year from 1993 through 2014 except 2012. A 500-year event would flood nearly the entire city of Fargo, a large portion of the city of Moorhead and several smaller communities in the area.
Breckenridge is in Wilkin County in western Minnesota, approximately 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and 55 miles south of Fargo, North Dakota. The Red River of the North and the Bois de Sioux River border the city on the west. The Otter Tail River flows from the east, bisecting the city. Wahpeton, North Dakota, is located to the west across the Red River from Breckenridge. The devastating flood of 1997 in the Red River basin generated a strong response at all levels of government to implement permanent flood risk management projects for urban communities along the Red River of the North.
The Red River of the North rises in Lake Traverse near Wheaton, Minnesota and flows north towards Canada and ultimately to Lake Winnipeg. The Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) produced the Long Term Flood Study (LTFS) in 2011 after the 2009 event. Minnesota and North Dakota expressed the need for a coordinated, comprehensive, proactive plan that responds to and mitigates flooding and flood damages throughout the Red River Watershed.
The Red River of the North basin covers 45,000 square miles and occupies substantial portions of North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota, southern Manitoba and a small portion of northeastern South Dakota. Land use in the basin is primarily agricultural, but several urban centers are located along the Red River main stem and tributaries. While extensive drainage systems have resulted in extremely rich agricultural areas, portions of the basin still support the ecologically abundant prairie-pothole region. Flooding is a major concern for residents in the basin; frequent floods have impacts on urban and rural infrastructure and agricultural production.
The Red River of the North basin is an international, multi-jurisdictional watershed of 45,000 square miles, with 80 percent of the basin lying in the United States and 20 percent in Manitoba, Canada. Eighteen Minnesota counties and 22 North Dakota counties lie wholly or partially in the basin. The river flows to the north, bringing water and nutrients to Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Flooding and loss of native habitat are significant issues in the Red River basin.