US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District Website


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

Published Sept. 12, 2016
Updated: Sept. 20, 2019

The study area is located in a rural setting in Wilkin County, east of Breckenridge, Minnesota and 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 was the subject of a flood control project constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1950s. The project involved straightening, cleaning and 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.

Approximately 60 years after construction, the Lower Otter Tail River is characterized by unstable banks, excessive sediment loading and degraded in-stream and riparian habitats.


A Feasibility Cost Share Agreement was executed in July 2017. The agreement allows the Corps to continue with the feasibility study, which will evaluate an array of alternatives designed to improve the degraded ecosystem habitat within the previously straightened portion of the Lower Otter Tail River and will identify the alternative that produces the most national ecosystem restoration benefits.

Potential alternatives include constructing rock riffle structures to create diversified river pools and reconnecting river meanders that were cut off as part of the project completed in the 1950s.

The Corps and Buffalo-Red River Watershed District met in spring 2017 to develop a strategy to group and narrow the array of alternatives that would be carried into the feasibility study. The watershed district is currently working on this analysis, and work on the feasibility study is expected to be completed in late 2020.


The study is being conducted under the authority of Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as amended.


The feasibility study is expected to cost $340,000. The first $100,000 of study costs are federally-funded. The remaining study costs will be split 50/50 between the federal government and the non-federal sponsors. The design and construction costs are cost shared, with the federal government responsible for up to 75 percent of total costs and the remaining costs funded by the non-federal sponsor. The total maximum federal contribution is limited to $10 million. The lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations and disposal areas necessary for construction, operation and maintenance of the project are the responsibility of the local sponsor.

Federal funds allocated to date                      $220,000