Damn Modification



CLA Board of Directors Supports project

Snake River dam at Cross Lake, moderate level

DNR’s Cross Lake Development Plans have included a proposed project to modify the dam on the Snake River at Cross Lake for a number of years. Recently, the project has picked up some momentum.


The proposed modification would leave the dam in place, which would ensure that water levels would remain as they have since the current dam has been in place.   Instead of the drop off on the down river side of the dam, as is typical in most lowhead dams, the down river side of the dam would be backfilled with rocks, large and small, and gravel.  This would change the gradient on the down river side of the dam from an immediate drop to a lower decline which will include interconnecting pools.  The appearance of the dam location would be changed from that of the dam to that of a rapids.

The DNR has done a number of these modifications on the Red River of the North and some of its tributaries.  Other states, such as Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin have extensive programs to removal and modify dams.

Following is a photograph of completed modification of Red Lake River at East Grand Forks which was completed in 2003.  While it is of a smaller scale than what is being proposed on the Snake River, the appearance would be similar.


 Red Lake River dam modification

The principle reasons for modification are fish passage, safety and aesthetical reasons.  Currently, the dam is a severe to moderate barrier, depending upon water level and fish species.  Species such as the common carp, white sucker and redhorse are strong jumpers and swimmers and can move up over the dam anytime except during very low water levels.  Whereas species such as northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass can overcome the dam only during the best periods.  Large catfish, lake sturgeon and most small non-game fish,  have great difficulty going up over the dam.  Cross Lake and the Snake River are inhabited by lake sturgeon, gilt darters, largescale stoneroller and brook lamprey, all which have difficulty going up over the dam and are considered “species of concern” by the Minnesota DNR

Fish migration and movement is an important factor in keeping a healthy and productive fisheries.  Less commonly know fact is that native mussels rely on fish for distribution.  The St. Croix River watershed, which the Snake River is a tributary, is inhabited by large and diverse mussel population.   A less restrictive fish movement will have beneficial effects for the whole watershed.
High water levels create a dangerous captive roller current, which can be deadly for those which are caught in the current.  This was sadly demonstrated by the drowning of a kayaker at the dam location last spring.

Snake River dam at Cross Lake during high water level   


The Cross Lake Snake River Association discussed the dam modification project a number of times at its membership and Executive Committee meetings last year.




Roger Hugill, DNR Fisheries Supervisor  


Roger Hugill, DNR Fisheries Supervisor, discussing the dam modification at our September 24, 2005 meeting.








Late last year, the US Army Corps of Engineers became interest in the DNR project.  The parties are in the process of determining the feasibility of the project and considering partnering jointly modify the dam.  Besides the DNR and US Army Corps of Engineers, the project has been endorsed by National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Citizen Advisory Committee of the Snake River Watershed Management Board.

Roger Hugill was invited to the Cross Lake Snake River Association Board of Directors to again speak on the dam modification project on February 7, 2006.  At the meeting, the Board unanimously passed a resolution in support and to promote the dam modification.

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WHEREAS, the Department of Natural Resources, Regional Fisheries Department at Hinckley, Minnesota has proposed modification of the Snake River dam at Cross Lake and further advised its intent to file the necessary reports, develop necessary engineering plans and seek funding, and,
WHEREAS, the proposed plan contemplates leaving the dam in place but to backfill the down river side of the dam with rock and gravel to create a series of connecting pools and change the appearance of the area from a low head dam to that of a rapids, and
WHEREAS, the modification will facilitate the movement of fish, both game and non-game species, and in particular Lake Sturgeon, a species of concern, through the dam site to re-connect the river above the dam with the whole upper St. Croix River system and at the same time, with the creation of connecting pools, increase fishing opportunities below the dam site, and
WHEREAS, such modification will not affect water levels of Cross Lake, and
WHEREAS, the modification will eliminate dangerous captive rolling current just below the dam during high water levels and thereby remove a proven deadly safety hazard, and,
WHEREAS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, Citizen Advisory Committee of the Snake River Watershed Management Board have endorsed the proposed project, now,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Cross Lake Snake River Association of Pine County goes on record in support of DNR’’s Snake River dam modification at Cross Lake and that the Association send a letter of support and a copy of this resolution to Roger Hugill, Area Supervisor, DNR Fisheries, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cross Lake Association of Pine County actively work to promote the project as proposed by the DNR.
Adopted by Board of Directors February 7, 2006