US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District Website Website

Continuing Authorities Program: Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Section 1135, Lower Otter Tail River

Published Sept. 12, 2016
Updated: April 2, 2020

The purpose of the project is to reestablish the river to a more natural condition, stabilize and improve river channelization, and restore riverine and riparian habitat.


The project is located in west-central Minnesota along an 11.4 mile stretch of channelized river. Breckenridge, Minnesota is approximately 8.5 miles downstream of the project area and is the nearest town.


The Lower Otter Tail River Channel Improvement Project was constructed in the 1950s to provide protection against the 10-year flood by clearing, enlarging, and straightening the existing river channel. The project reduced the length of the river in this reach from 18 miles to 11 miles. The straightened channel is now characterized by unstable banks, headcutting, excessive sediment loading, degraded in-stream and riparian habitats, and turbidity levels exceeding standard for aquatic life.

The project sponsor, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), requested assistance from the U.S. Corps of Engineers to determine the feasibility of developing an ecosystem restoration project along this portion of the Lower Otter Tail River. Restoration would benefit fish and wildlife populations by increasing suitable aquatic and riparian habitat.


A feasibility cost share agreement was executed in July 2017.

The Corps and project stakeholders are currently screening/evaluating alternatives and working through the feasibility process. The feasibility report is anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2021.


The study is being conducted under the authority of Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as amended. The CAP Section 1135 authority provides for the review and modification of structures and operations of water resource projects constructed by the Corps for the purpose of improving the quality of the environment when it is determined that such modifications are feasible, consistent with the authorized project purposes and will improve that quality of the environment in the public interest.


The first $100,000 of the feasibility phase is all federal, with the remaining costs 50 percent local sponsor, 50 percent federal government. A summary of federal funding is provided below.

FY 2016:
Feasibility                                                      $100,000

FY 2017:
Feasibility                                                      $120,000

FY 2020 (Anticipated):
Feasibility                                                      $207,000