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Corps begins drawdown plans in Red River of the North Basin

Published Feb. 25, 2013

ST. PAUL, MINN. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, began reservoir drawdowns within the Red River of the North Basin, today, Feb. 25. The drawdowns are in preparation for the spring runoff within the region.

The Corps’ first drawdown, at Lake Traverse, west of Wheaton, Minn., is targeting a drawdown to elevation 974.5 feet by March 31. To reach this level, the Corps plans to increase the outflow from Reservation Dam to 400 cubic feet per second, or CFS. The Corps will increase the outflow again on March 1 to the channel capacity of 1,100 cfs. The conservation level for Lake Traverse is 976.8 feet.

Once the water is released from Reservation Dam, it will then pass through White Rock Dam. As discharges from White Rock Dam are increased, ice conditions will deteriorate and become unsafe on the Bois de Sioux River as far downstream as Wahpeton, N.D., and Breckenridge, Minn. The Corps cautions everyone planning on being near this river during this time.

The Corps will begin a drawdown at Orwell Reservoir, southwest of Fergus Falls, Minn., after snow surveys are completed within the region Feb. 25 to March 8. The surveys will help determine how much water is contained within the snow. The Corps will be lowering the reservoir pool to between elevation 1,060, and 1,050 feet based on the survey results. The Corps’ target drawdown elevation is scheduled for March 31. The conservation level for Orwell Reservoir is 1,064 feet.   

The Corps will decide whether to continue the ongoing drawdown at Lake Ashtabula, north of Valley City, ND, during the same timeframe. The conservation level for Lake Ashtabula is 1,266 feet. The Corps began the drawdown in October, 2012, and the current elevation is 1,263 feet. The Corps will determine a new target drawdown elevation to be achieved by March 31 once the snow surveys are completed. Once the Corps determines the drawdown level, additional flow can be expected downstream of the reservoir. These flows will severely degrade river ice conditions, and the Corps urges caution near the river during this time. 

The nearly 700 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, employees working at more than 40 sites in five upper-Midwest states serve the American public in the areas of environmental enhancement, navigation, flood damage reduction, water and wetlands regulation, recreation sites and disaster response. Through the Corps’ Fiscal Year 2011 $175 million budget, nearly 2,800 non-Corps jobs were added to the regional economy as well as $271 million to the national economy. For more information, see


Public Affairs

Release no. 13-020