The purpose of the project is to provide hydraulic connectivity for aquatic organisms to pass from the Leech River upstream to Leech Lake.
The Leech Lake Dam is located at the outlet of the reservoir on the Leech Lake River, 27 miles above the junction with the Mississippi River. The dam is at the northwest edge of the city of Federal Dam in Cass County, Minnesota. The Leech Lake Dam is located within the boundaries of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation, although the dam itself is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fee-owned land.
Leech Lake is Minnesota’s third largest lake. Species of interest include walleye, northern pike, muskie, bass, perch, crappie, bluegill and eelpout. The lake is frequented by sport fishermen and tourists who frequent the area for fishing tournaments and festivals. In general, game fish populations are stable; however, increased fishing pressure has led to decreased individual fishing success. In some cases, this has led to the perception that the fishery is in decline.
The project sponsor, the Nature Conservancy, requested assistance from the Corps to determine the feasibility of developing an ecosystem restoration project at the Leech Lake Dam. A fish passage provides a hydraulic connectivity for aquatic organisms to pass from the Leech River upstream to Leech Lake.
A Federal Interest Determination was completed approved in March 2022.
The Corps is currently in the process of coordinating a Feasibility Cost Share Agreement to be executed with the Nature Conservancy as the non-federal sponsor to complete the feasibility study. It’s anticipated the agreement will be executed in the fall and the study will last approximately two years. The study will be cost shared 50% federal and 50% non-federal.
The study is being conducted under the authority of Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as amended. The Continuing Authorities Program 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 the quality of the environment for the public interest.
The first $100,000 of the feasibility phase is federal, with the remaining costs 50% local sponsor and 50% federal government with an expected study total cost of $700,000.
Federal funding provided to date: