Planning Assistance to States: Valley Branch Watershed District, Landlocked Basin Study, Minnesota

U.S. Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Sept. 27, 2021
Updated: April 15, 2024


The Valley Branch Watershed District (VBWD) project is a comprehensive planning study to assess water level management options for nine landlocked lakes and ponds at risk for flooding in Washington County, Minnesota. This study identifies and assesses alternatives to manage high-water conditions to protect homes, roadways, sewage systems, and other critical infrastructure in the watershed district.


The VBWD is the non-federal sponsor and operates in Washington County, Minnesota. The study area includes nine landlocked lakes and ponds located throughout the town of Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  Discharged water from each of these basins flows into the St. Croix River.  


The past decade has been the wettest on record in central Washington County since 1891, resulting in high groundwater and record water levels in the VBWD. Throughout 2020, Washington County and the VBWD conducted emergency pumping at several landlocked basins in the county. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recognizes the challenges with flooding in the VBWD and supports a partnership between the VBWD and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a flood mitigation study of landlocked basins.

In December 2020, the VBWD requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provide planning assistance. The Corps will conduct surveys, conditions modeling, alternatives analysis, water level and quality monitoring, and cost estimates to determine the best solutions to protect homes and other infrastructure from high water levels in the VBWD.


A partnership agreement was executed in July 2021. The sponsor is providing work-in-kind services as part of the cost-share agreement.

Corps survey crews completed bathymetric surveys in November 2021, drainage infrastructure surveys in January 2022, and critical structure surveys in April 2022. The climate assessment was completed in August 2023. The team is expected to complete the comprehensive planning study report in September 2023 and close-out activities in early fiscal year 24. 


Congress authorized Section 22 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1974 (Public Law 93‒251), which authorized the Corps’ Planning Assistance to States (PAS) program.


The study follows the 50/50 cost-share formula with the non-federal sponsor.

Total Study Cost                                         $1,140,000

     Federal Amount                                        $570,000

     Sponsor Work-In-Kind Services              $570,000