PGOLID Receives Sizable DNR Grant for Fish Lake Dam Makeover
December 20, 2016
The Fish Lake Dam, located near Dunvilla on the Pelican River, was built in 1932 for the purpose of maintaining consistent water levels in Pelican Lake. This dam has a long and storied history, including numerous partial washouts and patches, which caused drops in lake water levels of Pelican Lake and have left the dam in deteriorating shape.
An additional problem created by this dam, and many dams in general, is that they are barriers that make dispersal for river species difficult both up and downstream, but these structures can be converted in such a way that they are more favorable to passage of fish, muskrats, otters, shorebirds, waterfowl, salamanders, frogs, crayfish and other invertebrate species. As part of the Red River of the North Fisheries Management Plan, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has listed goals of removing barriers to restore uninterrupted fish migration pathways.
The Pelican Group of Lakes Improvement District (PGOLID), a taxing entity of lake property owners on Pelican, Little Pelican, Bass and Fish Lakes, has
been working with the DNR on ideas for a more permanent fix to the dam to improve its structure, safety, and habitat for fish and wildlife. The design that would fit the goals of all groups involved, is to modify the dam into a rock arch rapids fishway, which is a structure that mimics shallow natural waterfalls in rivers that can be traversed by fish moving up and downstream from the falls. A similar structure already exists at Dunton Locks County Park near Detroit Lakes and another was just completed this past summer in Barnesville on the Whisky Creek at the Blue Eagle Lake Park. This design would provide a long-term fix to the 84-year-old dam, which will (a) improve the functionality of the dam, (b) provide easier dispersal for river species up and downstream, and (c) provide spawning substrate for sturgeon. Even though this project covers less than one acre of land, it will benefit the 14,790 acres of lakes and 84 river miles in the entire Pelican River Watershed by restoring connections.
This fall, PGOLID submitted a Conservation Partners Legacy Grant to the DNR for funding to complete this project. As part of the grant application, PGOLID obtained project funding partners including the Pelican Lake Property Owners Association (PLPOA), Fargo-Moorhead Muskies Inc., the Red River Area Sportsmen’s Club, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In past grant cycles, the probability of receiving the grant has been around 50%. Recently PGOLID was pleased to find out that they were awarded a grant in the amount of $305,255 to complete this project.
PGOLID will be working with the DNR and Houston Engineering in 2017 to modify the Fish Lake Dam into a rock arch rapids fishway. The current dam will not be removed but will be modified. This new fishway will be built to hold water levels exactly as the current dam does, so that homeowners don’t notice a difference. To ensure the new fishway functions the same as the current dam, water level monitoring in the stream and lake has already been occurring to establish baseline conditions and will also occur after the project. Construction is expected to start in late summer or fall of 2017 with completion of the new fishway done by early 2018.
PGOLID would like to thank all the project partners and adjacent property owners for their support in the grant application and now the implementation of the project. Photos, water level data, and updates will be posted on the PGOLID website throughout the project here http://pgolid.org/programs/dam/.
Any questions about this project can be directed to Moriya Rufer, RMB Environmental Laboratories Inc., Aquatic Ecologist and Lake Coordinator for PGOLID, 218-846-1465, email@example.com.