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(L-R) Heidi Lindgrin DNR, Beth Hippert, SWCD, Owen Baird, DNR, Brad Kennedy, SWCD TSA 8 Engineer Tech, Roger Waytashek, Crow Wing SWCD Supervisor , Rob Hall Crow Wing County, Mayor Nevin, Crosslake, Senator Carrie Ruud, Commissioner Bill Breken, Crow Wing County Commissoner, Ken Ormsbee, Big Pine Lake Association President, Corrine Hodaap, USACOE Crosslake, and Minnesota Native Landscape Inc Representatives, Dan Ranweller & Joe Schaffer. - photos provided by Red Canoe Cre8tive, Dain Erickson

Ground Breaking for Pine River Fish Passage Project

Collaboration Grows the Landscape for Success

Web posted January 14, 2020
Public and private representatives gathered on the Pine River to kick-off construction of an ecological project aimed at fish health. Construction is expected to begin in January and completed before March 1, 2020. Beth Hippert, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Project Manager credits successful design and funding to a strong collaborative process. “Valuable input came from citizens, groups, city, county, state and federal representatives as well as agencies!”

The project will replace an existing 50-year-old failing rock dam with natural stream channel riffles on the Pine River. The new design reopens fish passage access to vital upstream resources helping to rebuild ecological health of fish and other aquatic life reliant on the Pine, feeder streams, wetlands, and lakes.

Recent surveys conducted by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Natural Resources indicated the dam was affecting fish and mussel populations*. In 2012 signs of these affects were noticeable in surveys that noted slight declines in two species of special concern and one threatened species. These species are indicators of stream health and in this case correlate to construction of the dam in 1970. In threeyears the stream will be surveyed again following a ten-year cycle set up by the MPCA to measure stream health. Based on studies of similar projects, it is expected improvements will be detected. reversing declines in sensitive fish and mussel species.

This project, unlike the rock dam took inspiration from the river itself to restore fish passage while controlling upstream water levels in Big Pine Lake. Predictable patterns of healthy stable stream channels were applied during design to replace the function of the dam without the environmental and ecological costs of a dam.

Five rock weirs spaced about forty feet apart along two-hundred feet of the stream channel will replace the dam. The series of riffles and pools will restore natural flows, spawning habitat, and in-stream cycling. Collectively, access to the habitats needed to reach reproductive age will benefit walleye, small mouth bass, bait fish and mussels. Benefits will also extend to anglers and paddlers.

“The Pine River Fish Passage Project is the area’s hidden gem, providing many recreational, hunting, and fishing opportunities according to Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Melissa Barrick.

Barrick stated, “Pine River Fish Passage project is a great example citizen, local government units, and state of Minnesota working together to solve complex local problem. We are grateful for the Clean Water, Land Legacy Amendment for the opportunity to address local fish habitat improvement.”

According to Beth Hippert, “Funding for this project was provided in part by the Clean Water Land Legacy Amendment through the Lessard Sam Outdoor Heritage Council and Minnesota State Legislature.

Project partners included: Pine Lake Association, Crow Wing County Highway Department, City of Crosslake, MN DNR, Crosslake US Army Corps of Engineers, and Technical Service Area 8 engineering.”

If you have any questions or would like to order via e-mail please contact us at, tasha.lauer@crowwingswcd.org or call the SWCD at 218 828-6197.

- Article and photos submitted

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