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.
(Log jam after)
In the fall of 2013 erosion control practices were implemented at a picnic site and fish camp site on the Rat Root. The erosion sites were engineered with support from the Technical Service Area (TSA) 8 Northern MN Joint Powers Board, technical help from the Koochiching SWCD and MN DNR, and construction by Anderson Barging and Viita Construction. Both sites used a combination of rock rip rap, bioengineering, and native tree cuttings to stabilize more than 475 feet of shoreline.
(Fish Camp Site erosion project, 2013)
(Picnic Site erosion project, 2013)
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. In fall 2014, Conservation Corps of Minnesota field crew led an additional log jam removal to improve navigability upstream on the Rat Root River.
(CCM crew during log jam removal in 2014)
(Map showing log jam removal site as completed by CCM)
Phase 2 of the project continued with walleye spawning enhancement where a riffle was constructed upstream of the Galvin Line bridge. This project was completed with contracting by Up North Builders, technical assistance through Koochiching SWCD and MN DNR, and engineering designs were completed by Sandy Verry of Ellen River Partners. The enhancement project was an arc of specific diameter stones that would create a rock spawning riffle on the bed of the river. The riffle is intended to draw water from the river toward the center and increase flow over the rocks to wash away sediment so the walleye have a clean substrate on which to lay their eggs.
(Partners at the dedication event for the first riffle in 2014)
A second riffle was completed mid-March 2015 by Up North Builders about 1.3 miles upstream from the first.
(Construction on the second riffle project, March 2015)
Stay tuned for onging project updates.
A complete list of the successful grant applications can be found at