Plans for Drayton Dam project falling into place

The plans were developed jointly between the Minnesota DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and reflect the current “best practices” for fish passage.

050121.N.GFH.HALLOCKDAM-Nick Kludt below dam.jpg
Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, stands below the first stretch of rocks and boulders that were placed into the South Branch of the Two Rivers downstream from the dam in Hallock, Minnesota, as part of the Two Rivers Fish Passage Restoration and Habitat Enhancement project. Kludt was in Hallock to see the project on Friday, April 9, 2021. A similar project, though on an even larger scale, is in the works for the Drayton Dam on the Red River.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — It’s not at the construction stage yet, but plans are falling into place on a project to convert the Drayton Dam on the Red River from a lowhead dam to a rock-riffle structure that accommodates fish passage.

The rock-riffle design also reduces drowning risk by eliminating the dangerous “roller” currents created below traditional lowhead dams.

According to Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource, the DNR has finalized plans and issued its permit for the project. The plans were developed jointly between the DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kludt said, and reflect the current “best practices” for fish passage.


Because the Red River is a border water, North Dakota also has to issue a permit, and the project awaits Fiscal Year 2022 funding from the Corps, Kludt said. Once those are in place, he said, the project will be advertised for bid, which is tentatively set for sometime in the next month or two.
The design, Kludt said, is similar to a project recently completed on the south branch of the Two Rivers in Hallock, Minnesota, though on a much larger scale.


The design features a series of boulders of varying size placed in a “sine wave” pattern from the top of the dam and sloping for 460 feet downstream.

The areas between the boulders will provide resting pools designed to allow lake sturgeon and other species to swim upstream from the dam, he said.

Lake sturgeon are an indicator species for fish passage because of their poor ability to pass barriers, Kludt said. As a result, if sturgeon can swim upstream over the dam, so can other fish species.

Efforts to re-establish sturgeon in the Red River and other waters in the Red River Basin have been underway since the late '90s.

The actual “footprint” of the project will extend upstream from the present location of the dam structure, with the base of the new rapids at the crest of the current dam, which will be removed, Kludt said.

“We don’t anticipate major impacts to angler use of the Drayton boat ramp while construction is underway,” Kludt said. “Parking near the fish cleaning station will probably need to be addressed to avoid traffic control issues.”

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department, which owns and manages the Drayton access, will be dealing with those issues, he said.

The Drayton Dam is the last of the eight dams on the U.S. side of the Red River to be modified as part of efforts to “reconnect the Red” that have been ongoing since the late ’90s. Riverside Dam in Grand Forks was completed in late 2001 in a project that included laying down more than 80,000 tons of rock and an additional 70,000 tons of dirt and clay, Herald archives show.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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