DNR Aquatic Habitat - Phase V

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
Start Date
July 2013
End Date
June 2017
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Big Stone
Blue Earth
Crow Wing
Le Sueur
Otter Tail
St. Louis
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2013, Ch. 137, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(a)
Appropriation Language

$5,250,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources to acquire interests in land in fee for aquatic management purposes under Minnesota Statutes, sections 86A.05, subdivision 14, and 97C.02, and to restore and enhance aquatic habitat. A list of proposed land acquisitions and restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Measurable Outcome(s)

Increased availability and improved condition of riparian forests and other habitat corridors.
Healthier populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species.
High priority riparian lands, forestlands, and savannas are protected from parcelization and fragmentation.
Rivers, streams, and surrounding vegetation provide corridors of habitat.
Stream to bluff habitat restoration and enhancement will keep water on the land to slow runoff and degradation of aquatic habitat.
Improved aquatic habitat indicators.
Improved condition of habitat on public lands.

Source of Additional Funds

CPL (city of Barnesville), US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, City of Oronoco, Olmsted County, DNR Dam Safety bonding money

Project Overview

DNR completed nine stream habitat projects with this appropriation. Four fish passage projects opened up access to 180 miles of river and 13,521 acres of lake and wetland habitat. We enhanced habitat on 39 Aquatic Management Areas, totalling 1440 acres, through the efforts of four positions funded by this appropriation. It also funded two stream habitat positions that oversaw the completion of 23 DNR projects and over 50 partner-lead projects funded by various OHF sources.

Project Details

Stream projects were chosen based on the DNR's Stream Habitat Priority List, where projects are ranked based on a number of criteria surrounding support and outcomes. This appropriation funded nine stream projects, several of which involved external partners. Individual project details are listed below.

- Solid Bottom Creek: This project addressed a steep, eroding stream bank along 500 feet of a designated trout stream.  The stream bank was a primary source of sedimentation within the stream, and likely contributed to a delta that is forming at the outlet of the stream in Elbow Lake.  Construction was completed in the spring of 2016, relocating the stream away from the tall eroding bank, stabilizing the toe of that bank by installing toe-wood structures, and enhancing pool habitat for trout that are stocked into the stream.

- Whisky Creek: OHF funding from DNR was combined with a CPL grant to the City of Barnesville to fund the project.  Bids for the work came in under projected costs, which allowed the City to also remove another dam within city limits on Whisky Creek that was underneath a railroad bridge.  Work has been completed in 2015 on the modification of the dam at Blue Eagle Lake and the removal of the dam underneath the railroad bridge. This project restored fish passage to 31 miles of upstream habitat.

-Minnesota River at Granite Falls: Construction of a riffle in the Minnesota River at Granite Falls was completed in December 2017. The project modified the remnants of an old dam made of rock into a riffle, enhancing spawning habitat that will be used by numerous fish species including lake sturgeon, walleye, and sauger.

-Red Sand Lake outlet: The outlet structure on Red Sand Lake was modified to allow fish passage, with construction completed in June of 2018. The former drop structure within a culvert was replaced by a larger culvert with an arch-rapids upstream and downstream, and with natural substrate within the culvert. Fish passage between White Sand Lake, which lies downstream, Red Sand Lake, and wetlands in between will benefit Red Sand Lake, especially in the occasional year that it experiences a partial fish-kill due to low oxygen conditions.

-South Branch Root River: This project was funded by the ML2013 and ML2014 DNR Aquatic Habitat appropriation. A 450 foot reach of the river was experiencing severe erosion, with the streambank losing over 10 feet per year. A riffle was constructed at the upstream end of the reach to direct flow, and a bankfull bench was constructed along the eroding bank using toe wood to enhance stability and fish habitat. The bench was vegetated with a native seed mix and willow live stakes. Construction was completed in August of 2018, with ML2013 funds only used for work completed prior to July 1, 2018.

-Turtle River: DNR partnered with the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Beltrami County to replaced an undersized culvert that blocked fish passage. The project opened up 13,000 acres of lake and wetland habitat and 30 miles of river that was formerly inaccessible to fish downstream of the project.

-Mississippi River at Weaver Bottoms: Former deepwater habitat in Goose Lake, a former floodplain lake on the Mississippi River had been filled with silt over several decades. This project dredged 9 acres back into deepwater habitat, and was completed in the fall of 2017. Dredge spoils from project excavation were stockpiled on land for drying and eventual spreading and revegetation on private land. The deepwater habitat is becoming rare on the river due to sedimentation, and is critical for over-wintering habitat for bluegill, crappies, and other fish species. This project was split between the ML2012 and ML2013 DNR Aquatic Habitat appropriations, and accomplished acres split proportional to the total cost contributed by each.

-Middle Fork Zumbro River/Lake Shady: This appropriation funded a portion (along with the DNR's ML2013 Aquatic Habitat) of the restoration of the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River through a former impoundment known as Lake Shady. The dam had washed out in a 2011 flood, leaving behind an eroding mud flat that threatened to harm downstream reaches as it eroded, and contained poor habitat in the channels that had cut through the mud. The former dam site's grade was stabilized by creating a rapids of stable rock material, and within the former reservoir new stream channels with appropriate dimensions were constructed. Habitat in the new channels was restored to include woody material as well as rocky riffles. Re-vegetation of the surrounding reservoir sediments with native plant species will provide quality riparian and upland habitat as well. The project was completed in partnership with Olmsted County ($125,736), the city of Oronco ($83,824) and DNR Dam Safety bonding funds ($1,000,000) all contributing funding. An additional $236,540 of in-kind staff time was contributed by Olmsted County.  In addition to the 147 acres of habitat restored, the project opened up access to 119 miles of stream. Accomplished acres are split between the two OHF appropriations proportional to funds contributed.

-Middle Branch Whitewater River: Construction began on this project in September of 2016. At that time, the new channel and floodplain were shaped prior to the end of the construction season. However, this project has run into issues with design that have prevented its completion to date. An outside consultant has been hired by DNR to provide a final design, with a new construction period in the summer of 2019 to complete the project. DNR received approval for an amendment that added this project to our ML2015 Aquatic Habitat appropriation, which will be used to pay for the remaining design and construction of this project.

-Aquatic Management Area enhancement: Enhancement work on 39 different AMAs such as prescribed burns, riparian plantings, and invasive species control were done on 1440 acres of habitat. Locations were in all four LSOHC planning regions. This work was made possible by the four AMA habitat positions funded by this appropriation. AMA staff assessed habitat needs at 106 AMAs, and developed management guidance that identifies enhancement needs for those parcels. In addition to the 39 projects done using this appropriation, AMA staff were involved with 106 other Outdoor Heritage-funded AMA enhancement projects, and provided guidance for 23 similar projects being lead by external partners who were using OHF money.

-Stream Habitat Specialist positions: Two specialists were hired to coordinate statewide stream habitat worked that was funded by OHF. These positions were responsible for both DNR projects, and assisting partner organizations with their projects. These positions upped the capacity for DNR to undertake multiple larger stream habitat projects, and to increase the quality of projects being done by partners. During the life of this appropriation, specialists participated in the design and construction oversight of 23 DNR stream projects, and provided assistance to over a dozen local partners on over 50 stream habitat projects funded by various OHF appropriations.

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Mn Dept of Natural Resources
Street Address
500 Lafayette Road
Saint Paul
Zip Code