Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration: Section 1135, Lower Otter Tail River, Wilkin County, Minnesota

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Sept. 12, 2016
Updated: Sept. 26, 2022

Purpose

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.

Location

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.

Description

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 the portion of the Lower Otter Tail River. Restoration would benefit fish and wildlife populations by increasing suitable aquatic and riparian habitat.

Status

A feasibility cost share agreement was executed in July 2017. The feasibility report with integrated environmental assessment has gone through public review and the documents were finalized and approved June 2022. The Corps is currently in the process of coordinating a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) with the non-federal sponsor to design and construct ecosystem restoration features. It is an anticipated that the PPA will be signed in spring 2023.

Authority

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.

Funding

The first $100,000 of the feasibility phase is federal, with the remaining costs 50% local sponsor and 50% federal government.

Federal funding provided to date:

FY 2016-2022:

      Feasibility                                                   $463,928