The Rat Root River Log Jam Removal Project (Phase I) was awarded in January 2011 in the amount of $22,500 with local matching funds of $2,250 for a total project amount of $24,750. This grant funded the opening of 30 log jams spanning 15 miles which served to increase water flow and navigability in the river and serve as a feasibility study on how to achieve success with the next phase. This portion of the project was completed in December, 2011, almost one year ahead of schedule.
The Rat Root River Sediment Control and Spawning Enhancement Project (Phase II) was awarded in February 2012 in the amount of $215,000 with local matching funds of $32,250 for a project total of $247,250. This grant will provide funds to open and remove approximately 40 log jams, remove additional deadfall wood, install erosion control measures in high priority locations along the river’s streambanks, and install spawning rock in locations determined by DNR Fisheries.
The Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club (Club), assisted by local DNR, has partnered with the Koochiching Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) to address the increase log jams along the Rat Root River as well as the decline in walleye spawning. In January of 2011, the Koochiching SWCD received a small Conservation Parnters Legacy (CPL) grant ($22,500) that was matched with $1,500 cash contributions and $944 inkind contributions from volunteer work from the Club.
The project goal of Phase I was to open channel blocking log jams spanning a distance of 15 miles along the Rat Root River (as identified in a report by Sandy Verry, chief hydrologist with Ellen River Partners). Utilizing local contracted labor, work began on the north end of our project area and proceeded south (upstream). Due to the complexity of individual jams underneath the water's surface, the removal was much more labor intensive than originally planned. A total of 30 jams were either completely removed or opened for fish passage and boat navigation.
Knowing that not all of the jams were accessible during the open water season, we utilized local contracted labor again in early winter of 2011 during frozen ice conditions to remove more of the wood. With the Rat Root River experiencing very low water levels and good ice formation, it made for ideal conditions to access and remove a majority of channel blocking jams. By the end of December 2011, Phase I had been completed with most of the wood either having been cut-up into managable pieces and hauled off-site or removed from the flood-prone area of the river.
Phase II begin:
In late February of 2012, the Koochiching SWCD received another CPL grant, this time for $215,000 which will be matched by $21,500 from the Club and $10,750 inkind work from the County. Because the Rat Root can experience very high water levels in the spring, we expected to find new jams forming from deadfall and wood carried downstream. On March 7th, contracted labor continued the process of opening and removing channel blocking log jams in the Rat Root River.
Work began at the Galvin Line Bridge and continued south for approximately 15 miles. The winter of 2012 provided very little snow with a few weeks of cold weather which gave the river an opportunity to produce very good ice. These conditions allowed the log jam removal to be very successful as over 90% of the wood in each jam was above ice and accessible. Roughly 80% of the wood removed from the jam was either burned on-site or hauled away and the remaining wood was removed from the flood-prone area. Over-hanging trees that were dead and hanging entirely across the river channel were also removed to prevent future jams at that spot. All of the work was completed by a five man crew with hand operated equipment only.
(Log jam before)
The later part of March brought above average temperatures which caused the ice to melt rapidly and work began in open water. As noted by the contractor in his activity report, working during open water seemed to be the “ticket” for removing much of the remaining wood in the jams. Completely removing individual logs from the bottom portion of the jam provided low-water access for navigational purposes. It was also noted by various users of the river that the current in the channel seemed to be at its highest speed compared to historical spring flows. This increased current, which we feel is a direct result of opening the log jams, provides multiple benefits for the river with the cleaning of spawning substrate being the most significant and relevant during the spring as walleye are heading upstream to spawn.
As expected, due to the inability to remove 100% of the “cut-up” wood, it appears that jams are forming at known congregation points along the river. We are developing a plan with the remaining dollars in the log jam opening/removal budget to address these jams. Work was also completed to identify specific spawning substrate riffle placements as described in our work plan and we will be moving towards construction of these this summer as anticipated. We are in the process of developing site plans for two bank stabilization projects along the river and will continue moving forward with construction planned within the next 12 months.
(Log jam after)
Stay tuned for onging project updates.
A complete list of the successful grant applications can be found at