Egg Lake Dam Removal & First River Restoration Project

The Egg Lake Dam removal project is located in northern Minnesota on the Chippewa National Forest and the lands of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The dam is located across the headwaters of the First River, which flows into Little Cut Foot Sioux Lake and on into Lake Winnibigoshish where it joins the Mississippi River.  The site is within the Laurentian Mixed forest and the area contains conifer and mixed hardwood forests and wetlands.   The 7’ tall earthen dam was designed to flood a pre-existing wetland to encourage waterfowl use.   Today the dam has reached the end of its design life and is recognized as a barrier to aquatic organisms that could utilize this headwaters area for spawning, rearing or refuge.  The approximately 80 acres of wetland that will be reclaimed are considered desirable habitat in their own right for amphibians, birds and plants.

Map showing the project location, east of Bemidji, MN | Bing Maps

Map showing the project location, east of Bemidji, MN | © Bing Maps

Project overview:

American Rivers is partnering with U.S. Forest Service with funding support from the state of Minnesota through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council’s  Conservation Partners Legacy Grant program to remove this inoperable dam, reconnect stream habitats and reestablish wetlands at the project site. This project will result in unobstructed flows in at least 2 miles of headwater habitat and will include road decommissioning to remove unneeded access roads.

Egg Lake Dam drawn down | © U.S. Forest Service

Egg Lake Dam drawn down | © U.S. Forest Service

Removal of inoperable dam & restoration of wetlands

The Egg Lake Dam is approximately 7-feet tall and 500-feet long.  It is comprised of an earthen embankment, metal outlet structure, and an emergency spillway.  The dam is tied in to approximately 800 feet of road that will be decommissioned along with the dam removal.  The dam feeds a ditch that causes flow to bypass the main channel of the river.  This ditch will be plugged to return flow to the natural channel and improve water delivery and retention in the wetlands above the dam.   These tasks will result in restoration of nearly 80 acres of wetlands that will serve as habitat for birds, frogs and turtles.

Egg Lake Dam and culvert replacement | © Bing Maps

Egg Lake Dam and culvert replacement | © Bing Maps

Replacement of an undersized culvert

A Forest Service road crosses the First River just downstream from the dam site.  The present culvert is too small to safely pass water and sediment.  It is also an obstacle for aquatic species wishing to move upstream.  This culvert will be replaced with a larger structure that will accommodate both fish and flows while safely passing vehicles on the Forest Service road.