Pine River Fish Passage Project on Big Pine Lake

Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fisheries (DNR), Big Pine Lake Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Crow Wing County (CWC)have partnered to replace a 46-yearold failing rock dam to restore up and downstream passage for fish and other aquatic life. The new structure design will mimic natural stream hydraulics and effectively restore connectivity and stability to the stream with minimal maintenance.

The design is based off a natural channel design method pioneered by Dave Rosgen P.H., Ph.D. and successfully tested by DNR Division of Ecological Resources Stream Habitat Program on 17 dam replacement projects. Upon completion, this project will improve biological health and stability in the stream and Big Pine Lake, it will also help protect three state listed fish species. All three were identified in surveys downstream of the dam (DNR)and risk population declines if the dam remains. Dams sever connections to resources essential for migratory fish and aquatic organisms, and compromise stream health and stability (Reconnecting Rivers. MNDNR. 2010). This project will help increase the numbers of these species and other aquatic species as passage and connectivity is restored between Big Pine Lake, the Pine River, tributaries, and ultimately the Mississippi.

This will greatly benefit migratory fish, mussels, and numerous aquatic organisms. The positive effects will be direct and immediate to the aquatic plant and animal communities that inhabit or utilize more than 20 miles of the river and 400 acres of Big Pine lake, essentially reversing decades of impacts. Over time this will also improve fisheries and habitat in the upper Mississippi and tributaries. The Pine River is located in Crow Wing County in the heart of North Central Minnesota's lake country. It flows from the north into the Whitefish Chain of Lakes and out at the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dam located in Crosslake, MN. The river is a State designated water trail used by canoers, kayakers, and anglers. Grant funds for this project will help protect resources in the county that attract more than 125,000 tourists a year and provide recreational and work opportunities for the 62,700 permanent CWC residents. Furthermore, the project will help to maintain the $219 million CWC tourism industry based on high quality lakes, public accesses, and fisheries that benefit Minnesotans and non-resident tourists (Tourism Minnesota 2014).

January 23, 2020:
 
Snow-sport enthusiast are likely happy with the snowfall this winter, but it has presented construction challenges to the project. This, in turn, necessitates higher discharge rates at the Crosslake Dam. Increased discharge is needed in anticipation of increased runoff during spring melt-off, to prevent adverse effects up and downstream. This has slowed down construction, but it is moving forward. 
 
Last week the Contractor (Minnesota Landscapes) moved equipment and materials to the site and secured the work zone. This week they began installing the diversion structure which is pictured below. 
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The links to press about the project and ground-breaking are below. 
 
February 4, 2020:
 
In your last update I reported that work had begun on the water diversion structures and sheetpile. This has since been completed and Minnesota Native Landscape's (MNL) crew has started work on the first rock weir. 
 
The photo below was taken from the west bank as MNL crew wrapped the sheetpile in geotextile before installing rock and filler material.   
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Photo two was taken of the water diversion channel, west side of stream.  
 
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As you may recall, a total of 5 rock weirs spaced about 40 feet apart will be installed downstream of the first weir. These structures will be built in two stages; 1. weirs will be constructed up to the water diversion channel 2. water will be diverted east while crews complete weirs and tie into the west bank. 
 
Minnesota Native Landscape's Crew is working long days, sometimes well past dark to complete this project. To help them stay on schedule and for your safety and theirs, please stay clear of the haul road and construction zone. The new estimated date for completion is mid to late March.

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