DNR Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Enhancement - Phase 3

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2021 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
In Progress
Start Date
July 2020
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Otter Tail
Otter Tail
Otter Tail
Otter Tail
Project Overview

Diverse habitat is critical to sustaining quality fish populations in lakes and rivers. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) will complete two fish passage projects to restore habitat connectivity for fish and other aquatic life, and restore reaches of two different rivers, creating 1.8 miles of diverse aquatic habitat. Though the actual footprint of fish passage projects is relatively small, these projects will reconnect over 600 acres of lake and river habitat. Stream projects were selected from a statewide list, prioritized by factors such as ecological benefit, scale of impact, urgency of completion, and local support.

About the Issue

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) annually updates a statewide list of stream habitat projects. Project submittals come both from MNDNR staff and from partner organizations. Projects are prioritized based on scale-of-impact, urgency, local support, and critical habitat for rare species. Based on this list, MNDNR and our partners are proposing two fish passage projects and two channel restorations, leveraging a confirmed $463,400 and an additional $1,000,000 requested from other sources.

Access to diverse habitats is critical for fish and other aquatic organisms to complete various life stages. The habitats they use at different life stages may all vary widely. These habitats can be fairly unique, such as high-gradient riffles favored by many spawning fish, and may be miles apart. When dams or other obstructions prevent aquatic life from reaching ideal habitat, they are forced to use less optimal locations that can reduce their success. In some cases this leads to the complete loss of sensitive species upstream of a barrier. Modifying or removing the barriers through our two proposed fish passage projects would have a total footprint of 2 acres, but create upstream access to over 600 acres of lake and river habitat. This will benefit fish such as walleye and brook trout present in these rivers, as well as five mussel species classified as threatened or special concern.

Streams naturally form habitat through the meandering of the river. Deeper, slower habitat is created by scour into the bed of the river around the outside of bends, while faster water and a rockier bottom is found in the straight sections in between. Wood, overhanging
vegetation, and boulders serve as cover and current breaks for fish. In degraded sections of river, these natural processes are disrupted. Some reaches have been artificially straightened, preventing the meandering that forms diverse habitat. In other places, streams have become surrounded by tall banks that prevent high flows from spilling out onto a floodplain. When floods are trapped within the stream channel, the river erodes the banks. This not only mobilizes tons of sediment that degrades downstream habitat, but results in a wide, shallow channel during low-flow periods that is avoided by adult fish. Channel restoration projects will utilize reference locations with high-quality habitat to improve habitat. Working with partners, we will restore 1.8 miles of habitat on two streams.

Department resources for stream habitat work falls far short of the need; funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) has been critical to an acceleration of stream habitat work by the department and partners such as Trout Unlimited, as well as smaller groups such as lake associations. We propose to continue funding for one stream habitat coordinator and two stream habitat specialist positions to enable this increased effort. They provide technical assistance and oversight on Legacy-funded projects by MNDNR and partners, improve efficiency of coordination by providing single points of contact, and enhance outcomes of aquatic habitat projects through technical guidance.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2020, Ch. 104, Art. 1, Sec. 2, subd 5(j)
Appropriation Language

$3,790,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources to restore and enhance aquatic habitat in degraded streams and aquatic management areas and to facilitate fish passage. A list of proposed land restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2021 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Improved aquatic habitat indicators - For the Hockamin Creek project, brook trout catch rates will be compared before and after project completion to evaluate the success of restoring fish passage upstream of these barriers.
Rivers and streams provide corridors of habitat including intact areas of forest cover in the east and large wetland/upland complexes in the west - Both MNDNR and PCA conduct periodic surveys of the Pelican River. For the Pelican Rapids Dam project, we will compare warmwater fish communities before and after project completion. We will also compare catch rates for critical species before and after project completion as indicators of population density changes.
Large corridors and complexes of biologically diverse wildlife habitat typical of the unglaciated region are restored and protected

Source of Additional Funds

Sustain Our Great Lakes grant and Buffalo Red River Watershed District

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Minnesota DNR
Street Address
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 259-5205
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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