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Red Lake Watershed District and DNR move forward on Pine Lake flood project

The Red Lake Watershed District and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently signed a memorandum of understanding to continue their efforts toward better water management of the Pine Lake watershed in Clearwater County.

One of several flood damage reduction projects in the watershed district, the Pine Lake project will allow for water level management throughout the year by constructing a new control structure on Pine Lake and creating upstream retention basins to reduce flood damage at the lake and areas downstream.

In a news release, the DNR said a 45-square-mile drainage area flows into Pine Lake. Runoff causes rapid increases in lake levels in the spring, and cabins have been flooded in 13 of the past 33 years. Lower lake levels in late summer, fall and winter can result in lake access issues for shoreland owners and may be detrimental to over-wintering fish populations.

Under the memorandum, the watershed district and the DNR seasonally will hold water in the wetland located on the Little Pine Lake Wildlife Management Area as part of area flood damage reduction efforts in the watershed. The WMA is located upstream from Pine Lake.

The watershed district will build a new dam on the wetland on Little Pine Lake WMA, and the DNR will use it to manage water levels upstream to reduce flood damage and enhance wildlife habitat.

In late fall, the DNR will drop water levels 2 feet in anticipation of holding upward of 4 feet of water during a flood.

“Lower fall, and in drier years, lower spring water levels would offer some natural resource enhancements,” said Dave Rave, Bemidji DNR area wildlife supervisor. “Lower water levels will provide breeding and migrating waterfowl and shorebird habitat. In very wet springs, we will hold back water to minimize flooding at Crookston and other areas downstream.”

Better water management in this and other watersheds will ensure they work efficiently to meet local needs and also help address a Red River basin regionwide goal, the Red River Basin Commission established to reduce peak flows along the Red River of the North.

Landowners and other watershed partners attended public meetings last July and provided input on the Pine Lake project, as well as a similar project on the Four Legged Lake watershed. The project teams met in August. The public input is now being used to determine the best options for both projects.

“Public input has been helpful in determining suitable alternatives for evaluation,” Myron Jesme, Red River Watershed District administrator, said in a statement. “We’re encouraged that the DNR and the Red Lake Watershed District have signed an agreement that establishes authority and responsibility for water level management on the Little Pine Wildlife Management Area.”

For more information on both Pine Lake and Four Legged Lake Watershed projects and progress, visit