Pelican Lake Enhancement

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 2018
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

Construction was completed in 2018 on the three components that made up the major infrastructure project at Pelican Lake - construction of a gravity outlet, water control structure, and pump lift station.  This work will allow for a drawdown and enhancement of Pelican Lake to return it to what was once one of the region's premier waterfowl and wetland wildlife habitats.  Ducks Unlimited provided the engineering and construction oversight of this significant project.

Project Details

Pelican Lake, located in eastern Wright County within ½ hour of the Twin Cities metro area is a shallow lake known statewide for its waterfowl production, migration, habitat, and hunting opportunities and is a state-designated wildlife lakes in Minnesota. This shallow lake basin has no natural watercourse inlets or outlets. Since the late 1950s and particularly, since the late 1970s, Pelican Lake has experienced a decline in water quality and a loss of the extent and quality of aquatic plant communities that once supported wetland wildlife habitat. This decline in water quality and loss of plant communities is associated with high lake levels and watershed land uses that increase water runoff. Agricultural land uses such as tiling and ditching within the Pelican Lake watershed have altered the natural hydrology and contributed to the decline in water quality. High water levels in Pelican Lake have contributed to persistent and increased rough and game fish populations, as well as a shift from rooted aquatic plants (macrophytes) to algae-dominated (plankton) communities. Increased turbidity due to re-suspension of bottom sediments and algae has resulted in the absence of rooted macrophytes from large areas of the lake.  These macrophytes, when present, moderate wave action, stabilize bottom sediments, uptake nutrients, and provide habitat for invertebrates. These factors have resulted in Pelican Lake changing over time from a “clear water state” to a “turbid state" and caused negative effects on lake productivity for waterfowl and shorebirds that historically used Pelican Lake as a migration stopover destination. The loss of important food sources associated with diverse macrophyte and invertebrate communities was the primary factor associated with declining use of the lake by waterfowl and shorebirds.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cooperated with Ducks Unlimited to install the significant infrastructure needed to enhance Pelican Lake through managed drawdowns. In 2012, Ducks Unlimited completed bioengineering designs and preliminary construction plans for the Pelican Lake project and oversaw all subsequent construction.  The project focused on the construction of a variable crest outlet weir and pump lift station which would allow for the gradual dewatering of the basin through an outlet (also developed as part of this project). The outlet was completed in 2014 and was followed by construction of a stoplog weir structure.  A pump station was constructed at the existing edge of the eastern-most bay of Pelican Lake. A 24-inch intake pipe was installed from this point for 900 feet into the lake The intake pipe involved placement of a structure within the lakebed to support the intake pipe at the proper elevation. The pump allows lower drawdowns than are possible with the weir structure alone.  

The water level management that this project makes possible is guided by the Pelican Lake Management Plan (2012), which details habitat objectives for the lake and defines triggers that determine what and when management actions are taken.  Pelican Lake is currently in the middle of a multi-year drawdown.

The DNR plans to develop a parking lot and lake access point in 2019 to give hunters and visitors better access to Pelican Lake.  

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2013, Ch. 137, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 4(g)
Appropriation Language

$2,000,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited to construct a gravity outlet, water control structure, and pump station lift to enhance aquatic habitat in Pelican Lake in Wright County. A list of proposed land restoration and enhancements must be included 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)

A network of natural land and riparian habitats will connect corridors for wildlife and species in greatest conservation need.
Core areas protected with highly biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities, including native prairie, Big Woods, and oak savanna.
Improved aquatic habitat indicators.

Source of Additional Funds

Ducks Unlimited

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Street Address
500 Lafayette Rd Box 20
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 259-5227
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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