DNR Stream Habitat

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
In Progress
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Crow Wing
Otter Tail
St. Louis
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2016, Ch. 172, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 5(f)
Appropriation Language

$2,074,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources to restore and enhance habitat to facilitate fish passage, degraded streams, and critical aquatic species habitat. A list of proposed land restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2017 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 - We will evaluate the miles of streams and acres of lake opened up to fish passage through surveys of fish communities. Fish species not previous found may appear, or increases in abundance of target species may increase..Protected, restored, and enhanced nesting and migratory habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need - Migratory habitat for several rare mussel species will be enhanced by this project by creating fish passage at a barrier. Physical conditions required for fish passage will be measured to gauge project success..Improved aquatic habitat indicators - The project will stabilize an eroding streambank and enhance woody cover for trout and other coldwater aquatic species. The Minnesota Stream Habitat Assessment protocol will measure if habitat conditions improve..Rivers, streams, and surrounding vegetation provide corridors of habitat - Habitat will be restored or enhanced on three trout streams, improving conditions for trout and other coldwater species. We will monitor trout populations within these projects for evidence of an increase in abundance..This project will improve fish passage on rivers in this planning region, creating connectivity between upstream and downstream reaches. Conditions suitable for fish passage will be measured to guage project success. Fish survey work may detect species that were previously not found above barriers..

Source of Additional Funds

USFWSPomme de Terre River Assoc.

Project Overview

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will restore or enhance habitat to facilitate fish passage, restore degraded streams, and enhance habitat critical to fish and other aquatic life. Projects are prioritized based on ecological benefit, urgency, feasibility, and stakeholder support.

About the Issue

Minnesota may be the Land of 10,000 lakes, but often overlooked are its over 69,000 miles of streams. From small trout streams to the mighty Mississippi, streams support a wealth of biodiversity and also provide excellent fishing opportunities. In some parts of the state that lack natural lakes, such as Southeast Minnesota and the Red River Valley, streams represent the only local opportunity for fishing. Trout, smallmouth bass, lake sturgeon, and walleye are among the species stream anglers can pursue.

Minnesota streams host 162 fish species and 48 mussel species, of which 23 are listed as special concern, threatened or endangered. Streams in Minnesota have been degraded through a history of alterations to the streams themselves by channelization (straightening), poor riparian management, and fragmentation by barriers such as dams. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) works to restore or enhance habitat to address these impacts, benefiting fish, mussels, and other aquatic life. However, department resources for stream habitat work fall 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. In past rounds of OHF, stream habitat has been part of a larger MNDNR package of aquatic habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement projects. In this round we have chosen to create a proposal focused solely on stream restoration and enhancement, with aquatic habitat protection in a separate proposal.

One of the biggest limitations to fish and mussel species is the fragmentation of rivers. Dams and other obstructions block fish from migrating to key habitats such as spawning areas. The juvenile life stage of mussels spends it's first weeks of life on the gills of a fish, and relies on that fish to transport it upstream to hospitable habitats. Barriers can lead to the loss of fish and mussel species above dams, and reduce populations living below them. Often dams and other barriers are not longer serving their intended function and can be removed. In cases where the dam is still functioning, the structure can be modified to allow fish passage. Examples of modifications include projects that have converted dams into rapids, and construction of nature-like fishways around or over dams.

A case study in the benefits of fish passage is the removal of a dam on the Pomme de Terre River in Appleton, MN. Following removal, 10 fish species including walleye and channel catfish have returned to 42 upstream miles of river that became accessible. Mussel species have also benefited, with two native mussel species now found in areas upstream of the dam where formerly they had been absent. Another example is the modification of the Heidberg Dam on the Wild Rice River to allow fish passage, where 10 fish species including walleye, sauger, channel catfish, and smallmouth bass are now found where they had formerly been absent, as far as 75 miles upstream of the dam. These case studies show that although the footprint of fish passage projects is small (typically only a few acres) and the cost per acre appears high, the benefits go far beyond the project site. We can impact miles of stream in a single project, and the benefits will endure.

Some proposed fish passage projects target species living in lakes that use streams for spawning. Many species including northern pike, walleye, suckers, and numerous minnow species migrate out of lakes and into streams to spawn before returning to the lake. On many lakes, the outlet has been dammed in order to stabilize water levels for property owners. These dams block fish from returning to the lake when they've finished spawning, as well as blocking their offspring from migrating to the lake when they mature.

The potential for fish passage projects to enable access by invasive species has been examined for all proposed projects. None of these projects serve as a barrier between problem species such as Invasive Carp and upstream waters. Most aquatic invasive species (e.g. zebra mussels or Eurasian water milfoil) rely on other vectors such as unintentional transport by recreational boaters, rather than swimming upstream past barriers.

Many streams in Minnesota have also been degraded by habitat alteration such as channelization (straightening). This simplifies the habitat and eliminates the shallow riffles and deeper pools that are required by different life stages of fish. Other streams have issues with bank erosion that degrade habitat. Channel restoration and enhancement projects can address these impacts by recreating appropriate habitat, and stabilizing eroding banks. This benefits not only the project area, but reaches that lie downstream that are no longer affected by eroded sediment.

Our package of fish passage and stream channel restoration and enhancement includes 7 projects that occur in 4 of 5 LSOHC planning regions. Although the footprint of projects is 22 acres, the projects will benefit over 4,400 acres of lakes and streams (refer to Table 1) through restoration or enhancement of fish passage. Projects were selected from a prioritized list that includes factors such as ecological benefit, feasibility, urgency, and stakeholder support. We have chosen to include parcels in this proposal above and beyond what can be accomplished with allocated funds. This will allow flexibility to complete additional projects should new sources of matching funds become available.

Several of the projects on our parcel list (e.g. the Adrian Dam, and Cottonwood River dams) will involve partnership with other state agencies or local governments. Partners in many cases are local governments that own a dam proposed for removal or modification. In all cases local partners are supportive of the project, and will contribute in-kind staff time toward the projects' completion.

This request also funds an ongoing stream habitat coordinator position and a part-time intern for two years. The increased work of coordinating complex stream projects funded by OHF is greater than can be handled by existing MNDNR staff. These positions create the capacity for MNDNR to effectively complete the proposed projects.

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Street Address
500 Lafayette Rd. Box 20
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 259-5205