Tribal Partnership Program: Red Lake Fish Passage & Wetland Restoration, Red Lake River, Minnesota

U.S. Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Sept. 27, 2021
Updated: Sept. 26, 2023


The study will address the degradation of culturally significant habitat being faced by the Red Lake Nation on their tribal lands along the Red Lake River and the Zah Gheeng Marsh. The study will assess and make recommendations related to fish passage through a low-head dam and wetland restoration opportunities along the Red Lake River.


The Red Lake River is the only outlet to Lower Red Lake, which is completely within the boundaries of the Red Lake Nation in Red Lake, Minnesota. The Zah Gheeng Marsh is adjacent to the Red Lake River, immediately downstream of Lower Red Lake. The Red Lake River is a tributary to the Red River of the North.


The Zah Gheeng Marsh has not functioned as it did prior to construction of the Red Lake Dam and channelization of the Red Lake River. Previous efforts to restore marsh function include construction of the low-head dam and inlet structures which pass flows into the marsh directly from Red Lake. The Red Lake Dam, channelization, low-head dam and inlet structures are U.S. Army Corps of Engineer projects. Historically, the Zah Geng Marsh provided habitat for waterfowl and fur-bearing mammals, especially muskrats. The Red Lake River historically provided the connection between the Red River of the North to the spawning habitat of the Red Lake River immediately downstream of Lower Red Lake. The purpose of the feasibility study is to examine the hydrologic restoration of the Zah Gheeng Marsh as it relates to waterfowl and fur-bearing mammal habitat and a low-head dam on the Red Lake River in conjunction with wetland hydrology and fish passage.


A feasibility cost-share agreement between the Corps and the Red Lake Nation was signed on June 16, 2021. Federal funding for the study has been provided and the study began in July 2021. The study includes gathering information, formulating alternatives, analyzing costs, benefits and environmental impacts, and recommending a tentative plan on how to address hydrologic restoration and fish passage. A draft feasibility study report with integrated environmental assessment will be prepared and coordinated with the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council in late 2024, followed by a public review. The report will be finalized in early 2025.


The Tribal Partnership Program (TPP) is authorized by Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (Public Law 106‒541). The TPP provides authority for the Corps to work with Indian nations to study and determine the feasibility of carrying out projects that will substantially benefit Indian nations.


Feasibility Study                                           $700,000

The shared study costs are estimated to be $700,000 with the federal share to be $675,375 and the non-federal sponsor’s share projected to be $23,625. Tribal Partnership Program feasibility studies qualify for a waiver ($511,000), and the Tribal share is based on an ability to pay formula.