One Watershed, One Plan

BRRW Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan:
Final BWSR Prescribed Plan

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan (BRRW CWMP) was developed out of a statewide program known as the One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) authorized by statute (103B.801). It represents an effort to develop a single, concise, and coordinated approach to watershed management. This plan is written to guide local water managers and consolidates policies, programs and implementation strategies from existing data, studies and plans, and incorporates input from multiple planning partners to provide a single plan for management of the watershed. Previously, numerous county and watershed district plans were developed for different areas of this watershed with little attention paid to coordination at the watershed scale. This plan’s purpose is to build on existing plans and information to develop goals and targeted and measurable implementation actions to better manage water resources in this watershed.

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) was reviewed and prescribed by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil (BWSR) on 10/28/20.  Follow the links below to view the final Buffalo-Red River Watershed (BRRW) Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan (CWMP) and Appendix.   


BRRW CWMP Appendix

Thank you on behalf of the members of the BRRW 1W1P LGUs:

The Counties of Becker, Clay, Otter Tail, and Wilkin
The Becker, Clay, West Otter Tail and Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation Districts
The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District


1W1P Plan History and Background

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed (BRR) One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) planning area is located in the west central Minnesota. The approved boundary is the same as the Buffalo-Red Watershed District (BRRWD) Boundary as recommended to BWSR by the 1W1P Planning Committee. The planning area drains 1,785 square miles, contains all or parts of three major watersheds: Buffalo River, Otter Tail River, and Upper Red River, and  encompasses parts of Becker, Clay, Otter Tail, and Wilkin counties.

The Buffalo-Red River watershed is one of seven areas that are participating in the second round of 1W1P that has been approved by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). The BRRWD is working with local government agencies from Becker, Clay, Wilkin, and Otter Tail Counties to create a single plan for the watersheds. Cooperation throughout multiple, connected jurisdictions is important because water management in one county affects the waters of all the other counties. Participation in the 1W1P Program will benefit the LGUs by combining our planning efforts and reducing redundancy in time and dollars used for plan writing and meetings.  

The 1W1P will establish clear implementation timelines, milestones and cost estimates for restoration and protection activities. Combining multiple water planning efforts into one effort will create a more efficient and cooperative plan for water management. Plans will include goals and implementation actions that are prioritized and targeted on a watershed basis with measurable results, instead of the present individual plans that are restricted to political boundaries.

One Watershed, One Plan Information

1W1P Fact Sheet (BWSR)

BWSR 1W1P Website 


News & Updates

The Buffalo-Red River 1W1P Advisory and Policy Committees typically meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month from 9:00 AM to Noon in the BRRWD Office, 1303 4th AVE NE, Barnesville, MN.

The next meeting dates:  
Planning Team: To Be Announced
dvisory Committee:  To Be Announced
Policy Committee:  To Be Announced


Approved Meeting Minutes

Meeting Dates/Materials

  • May 4, 2018 1W1P Policy Committee Meeting
  • April 18, 2018 Planning Team Meeting
    Planning Team reviewed a draft budget and workplan and will forward final documents for the Policy Committee’s review at their 5/4/18 meeting.


  • April 6, 2018 1W1P Policy Committee Meeting.
    Committee approved the Bylaws and all the participating entities have approved the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).


Buffalo-Red River 1W1P Documents and Links

Approved Bylaws:   Bylaws

Approved Memorandum of Agreement:  MOA 

Whiskey Creek Enhancement Project

Whiskey Creek Enhancement Project

Engineer’s Report 11-19-20

Environmental Assessment Worksheet Availability Notice 

Environmental Assessment Worksheet

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Record of Decision

The Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), is working with the Wilkin County Environmental Office regarding a grant they secured from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to look at a potential project involving Whiskey Creek near Kent, MN. 

Whiskey Creek is a tributary to the Red River of the North located in Wilkin County, MN. The creek is one of many natural waterways within the BRRWD political boundary.  The Whiskey Creek subwatershed is approximately 157 square miles in area and extends from northeast of Rothsay in Otter Tail County flowing through the Red River Prairie eco-region in Wilkin County, outletting near Kent, Minnesota. Drainage within the subwatershed generally runs from east to west and south to north, though portions in the upper subwatershed drain north to south.

The Whiskey Creek subwatershed was only recently added within the BRRWD political boundary when the District expanded in 2012. However, discussions about a potential project involving Whiskey Creek have been occurring between landowners and Wilkin County for at least 20 years. Wilkin County, in partnership with the BRRWD, secured a 2016 Clean Water Fund (CWF) Accelerated Implementation Grant (AIG) from the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR) to begin studying the creek and investigating what could be done. The scope of work for the AIG included civic engagement, topographic survey data collection, hydraulic modeling, project development, preliminary engineering design, and reporting.

With the AIG grant funding, the BRRWD collected the existing channel geometry for Whiskey Creek and its public waters tributaries starting in the summer of 2016 and completed in the winter of 2017. Channel geometry collected included cross-sections, channel centerline profile, sediment test pits, and culvert and bridges along Whiskey Creek, the Wilkin County Ditch 1A/1B Tributary, and the Wilkin County Ditch 6A Tributary. The collected channel survey information was used to supplement Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) topography data. LiDAR does not penetrate through water to pick up the bottom of the channel, so ground survey was required to fill in the gap in the LiDAR data that existed in those areas that had water on them at the time of the LiDAR survey. In addition to conventional GPS rover survey collection, stream bathymetry data was collected in regions where water depths exceeded wadable conditions. The combination of the LiDAR, ground survey, and stream bathymetric survey information was used in the planning and development of the restoration design.

The Project Goals & Objectives for the Whiskey Creek Restoration Project are as follows:

· Improve water quality by reducing sediment and nutrient loadings to the creek
· Improve natural waterway drainage
· Improve wildlife habitat along the stream corridor
· Reduce sediment loading downstream
· Reduce the occurrence and magnitude of flood damages to agricultural fields and adjacent residential properties

 Fundamentally, the goal of the Whiskey Creek Enhancement Project is to provide and foster stable stream conditions. A stable stream is defined by the MN DNR as a stream that is able to convey both its water and sediment load while maintaining its general geometric characteristics, including pattern, profile, and dimension. A stable stream neither aggrades nor degrades over time, but instead balances between the processes of erosion and deposition in a way that does not widen or narrow the channel.

The CWF AIG Final Study Report, prepared by Houston Engineering, Inc., dated February 7, 2018, (available below) was presented to the public at the 12/13/18 landowners’ informational meeting.

Final Study Report 

December 13, 2018 Landowner Informational Meeting

June 27, 2017 Landowner Meeting documents and notice

Stony Creek WRMP

Stony Creek Water Resource Management Project

EAW Findings of Fact
EAW Findings of Fact Distribution Letter
EAW Findings of Fact Distribution List


Environmental Assessment Worksheet Distribution Letter & List
Environmental Assessment Worksheet Availability Notice
Environmental Assessment Worksheet

Stony Creek WRMP Project Concept Plan

Proposer: Buffalo-Red River Watershed District


The project area is located approximately 5 miles to the northwest of Barnesville, MN and is located on Clay County Ditch No. 31 (also known as Stony Creek). The watershed is steep and flashy and has a drainage area of 35 square miles. The project is in the BRRWD’s Central Planning Region. The project is currently in its study phase. The project consists of numerous features: 4.5-mile-long river corridor restoration enclosed by setback levees, a floodwater impoundment and expansion of buffers along Stony Creek and its tributaries. The proposed 7,000 acre-feet of gated storage will provide more than 80% in reduction to the peak flow contributed by Stony Creek. Reductions to peak flows downstream on the South Branch Buffalo River are expected to be around 5%. 

Project Benefits       

Flood Control Goal:    

  • 80%+ reduction in 10-yr & 100-yr spring flood discharges from contributing drainage area

Habitat Restoration:

  • Reduced turbidity, enhanced fish habitat, stream restoration along Stony Creek and riparian buffer corridor.

Erosion Reduction:

  • Reduction in riverbank erosion and bank sloughing; buffering (89 acres) along the stream restoration reach, reduction of overland flooding and reduction in turbidity and suspended solids thereby improving water quality. 

Project Cost: $15 Million    

Status: In Design Phase/Land Acquisition in 2019, Ready for Construction in 2020 

Funding Sources:
State DNR ($7.50M) / WD ($7.00M) / USDA ($0.50M)

Key: WD=Watershed District; DNR=Minnesota DNR HMGP


MPCA MS4 Regulations

BRRWD MS4 Boundary Map

Municipal Stormwater Management

Rain and melting snow create runoff as they move across the landscape to lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands. In urban areas, most stormwater falls on streets, sidewalks, parking lots, roofs, and other hard surfaces and carries pesticides, fertilizers, oils, metals, salt, bacteria, litter, yard waste, sediment, and other materials down storm drains and into lakes and streams. Unlike wastewater, most stormwater is not treated before it empties into nearby bodies of water. Not surprisingly, stormwater runoff is a leading source of water pollution.

In addition to the contaminants it carries, stormwater runoff from hard, urban surfaces travels faster and in larger quantities, the force of which damages rivers, streams and wetlands and can destroy habitats for fish and other aquatic life. Impervious surfaces also prevent stormwater from filtering into the ground and recharging groundwater.

A public entity’s stormwater system (ditches, stormwater ponds, curbs and gutters, storm drains, catch basins, storm sewer pipes, and so on) is called a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). This does not include systems where wastewater and stormwater are combined. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) regulates MS4 systems as mandated by the federal Clean Water Act with the goal of improving water quality by reducing pollutants in stormwater discharges. MS4 regulations require that owners/operators educate citizens on stormwater management issues and include them in solving stormwater problems, make plans to detect and stop illicit discharges, control runoff on construction sites, and more.

The MPCA has identified the portion of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) near Moorhead and Dilworth as a MS4 area.  Additional rules apply to projects in this area.  See the BRRWD MS4 Boundary Map on this page.  If you have a project in this area draining to a BRRWD project, additional rules apply.  See Section 8 of the BRRWD Rules.

The MPCA conducts outreach efforts intended to educate city staff, contractors, governmental units and their constituents on the State of Minnesota Construction Stormwater (CSW) permitting and erosion and sediment control requirements associated with construction activities. These requirements apply on sites disturbing more than 1 acre of soil and on sites disturbing less than one acre of soil but part of a larger plan; for example, a subdivision where cumulatively, the construction activities on all of the lots would result in more than one acre of soil disturbance.

Included below are educational materials and tools that can assist you in meeting the MS4 requirements. Links have been provided below that hit the highlights of the Construction Stormwater (CSW) program. They can be useful in understanding the CSW permitting requirements.

  • Construction Stormwater Brochure
    We developed a brochure that may be of use to the counties and would be an easy thing to hand out. It covers the permitting requirements and the “Why” on one side and on the inside it has a 10 steps to compliance that could be very helpful to the permittees, developers, builders, etc.


Hamden Slough Structure Replacements

A few years ago, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began investigation for replacement of the control structures for their Big 6 wetland complex. The Complex consists of Office Wetland, Eagle Pond, Hesby Wetland, Hass Wetland, Homstad Lake, and South Wetland located in Sections 1, 2, 11, and 12, T139N, R42W (Audubon Township), Becker County, near the Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building site (the main headquarter building has since been demolished). Three of the basins (Eagle, Hesby, and Homstad) are located on Branch No. 4 of Becker County Ditch No. 15. At this time, the USFWS would like to replace the outlet structures for Eagle Pond, Homstad Lake, Hass Wetland, Office (Northwest) Wetland and Hesby Wetland. No change is proposed for South Wetland.

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) has scheduled a Becker C.D. No. 15 system hearing regarding the proposed structure replacements on Thursday, July 16, 2020, at 7:00 PM in the BRRWD Office, 1303 4th AVE N, Barnesville, MN.  The documents below pertain to information  relevant to the upcoming hearing.  

7/16/20 Becker C.D. No. 15 Impoundment Hearing 
Hearing Notice
Written Comments Form
District Engineer’s Report and Findings of Fact
USFWS Project Plans  (large file)
Design Report Addendum (large file)

Project No. 79, Wolverton Creek Restoration


BRRWD Receives the Minnesota Environmental Initiative
2020 Rural Vitality Award for the Wolverton Creek Restoration

Read more about the MEI 2020 Awards

“Wolverton Creek Restoration is a strong example of a project that engaged a significant part of the community (450 landowners) and had a broad outcome (105 square miles within the watershed) – all within a culture and community where this has proven contentious or difficult in the past. We see this two-stage natural prairie stream replicable in other areas and regions and look forward to seeing how this effort can be exemplified and repeated.”

– Rural Vitality Category Evaluation Team

2019 Drone Ground Level View of the Wolverton Creek Restoration Channel 
2019 Drone Birds-eye View of the Wolverton Creek Restoration Channel 

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District has developed a multi-phase comprehensive strategy to improve water quality and protect the valuable resource of Wolverton Creek in an extensively drained agricultural HUC-12 watershed. Wolverton Creek is a 23.5-mile long tributary to the Red River of the North with 8.2 miles of the Creek in Clay County and the remaining 15.3 miles in Wilkin County. The watershed is approximately 104 square miles and is located within Holy Cross and Alliance Townships of Clay County and Wolverton, Deerhorn, Roberts, and Mitchell Townships of Wilkin County. About two-thirds of Wolverton Creek is Public Water and the remaining upstream one-third is not considered Public Water. The section line between Sections 26 and 35, Wolverton Township, is the divide where Wolverton Creek becomes Public Water. There are several County Ditch Systems in the project area (Wilkin County Ditch Nos. 5A, 22, and 26; Clay County Ditch Nos. 36, 53, and 60; and Clay/Wilkin Judicial Ditch No. 1) as well as several natural waterways that flow into Wolverton Creek. Wolverton Creek is the outlet for these ditch systems and natural waterways.

Beginning over a century ago, streams in the Red River Basin have been straightened, ditched, cleared, and snagged with the goal of improving drainage and agricultural production. Wolverton Creek is one of the streams that has experienced these impacts. For some time now, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) has been looking at options to improve wildlife habitat, increase wildlife habitat connectivity, improve water quality, and to reduce flooding conditions in the Wolverton Creek drainage area. Landowners in the area requested that the Watershed District investigate the problems associated with Wolverton Creek and find solutions to correct these problems. The BRRWD along with the Clay and Wilkin SWCDs aim to reduce erosion and sedimentation in Wolverton Creek. A watershed-wide solution has been developed to correct the current issues being experienced along Wolverton Creek and its tributaries. The solution includes channel restoration, installation of side inlets and other sediment control BMPs within the Wolverton Creek Watershed, and installation of expanded buffer strips along Wolverton Creek. The outlet reach of Wolverton Creek downstream of Trunk Highway 75 was previously restored through the installation of a series of rock riffles, vegetative buffers, and sediment BMPs. Previous work also included installing vegetative buffers, erosion control, and sediment BMPs on all legal drainage systems draining into Wolverton Creek. 

Our current focus is on Phase 1 of the overall project (3 phases), which is located in the middle reach of the Wolverton Creek and is critical for completion of project features upstream.  The sediment reduction project is a three-pronged attack:  install sediment BMP controls, expand riparian buffers to significantly reduce sediment loading to Wolverton Creek and its tributaries, and restore Wolverton Creek to improve channel stability and reduce the in-stream sediment loading. The total estimated Phase 1 (Reach B) costs are $3,700,000.  The project was awarded $2.8 million from the Targeted Watershed Program fund, $1.877 million from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Fund, and $100,000 from the Enbridge Eco-Footprint Grant Program.  The required local match (25% of grant funds) is $700,000. 

Project Partners:

  • Buffalo-Red River Watershed District
  • Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Clay Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Natural Resource Conservation Office
  • Landowners

Wolverton Creek Easement Acquisition Process

Engineer’s Design Report

BWSR Advisory Comments For Engineer’s Report

Proposed Water Management District Charge Determination

Wolverton Creek Sediment Reduction Fact Sheet

Wolverton Creek Sediment Reduction Project Schedule

Wolverton Creek Sediment Reduction Work Plan 06/27/16

Read more about the Clean Water Stories on the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Website.




Project No. 78, Clay/Wilkin J.D. No. 1-Improvement

Landowners filed a petition with the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) for the improvement of a portion of Clay-Wilkin Judicial Ditch No. 1 (JD-1) on June 1, 2018, in accordance with Minnesota Statutes Annotated (M.S.A.)103E.221. The proposed JD-1 Improvement is located along the east-west quarter line of Sections 25, 26, and 27, T137N, R48W (Holy Cross Township), and Section 30, T137N, R47W (Alliance Township), Clay County, utilizing Wolverton Creek (also known as Comstock Coulee) as its outlet.  The proposed project is a result of recurring flooding experienced by landowners along JD-1, especially those landowners with land adjacent and north of the Clay-Wilkin county line along the proposed improvement alignment.  The BRRWD designated this project as Project No. 78 and ordered Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) to prepare the Engineer’s Preliminary Survey Report in accordance with Minnesota Statutes 103E.241, Subd. 1.  The improvement was investigated in order to study its potential effects on flood damage reduction. HEI submitted the Report to the Board of Managers, BRRWD, on July 23, 2018, and is available below:

Project No. 78, Clay/Wilkin J.D. No. 1 Improvement-Preliminary Engineer’s Report

Lower Otter Tail River Restoration

In 2015, a number of agency and resource personnel met to discuss the LOTR and possible ways to improve the river. In the 1950s, portions of the LOTR in Wilkin County were straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers.  This greatly reduced the length of the river and steepened the slope, resulting in reduced habitat diversity and quality, and contributed to impaired water quality.  A future project’s potential benefits could include improved water quality, increased flood capacity, wildlife corridor and high quality habitat, better fish habitat, and increased recreational opportunities.  A total maximum daily load (TMDL) study was completed for the LOTR in 2006.  At that time, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that the annual sediment load was 40,400 tons at the gauging site in Breckenridge.  Two primary sediment sources were identified, including the adjacent fields, ditches, and streams and from streambank erosion.

Since the group first met, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) has applied for a Federal Section 319 EPA grant through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). That grant was approved in the amount of $242,000.  The 319 work plan includes several objectives, including civic engagement and outreach; channel restoration survey to establish the existing channel conditions; channel restoration and sediment reduction engineering design; and grant administration/reporting.  Last fall, the Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) obtained a grant through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) in the amount of $203,013 to be used as a match for the EPA funding.  Also, the BRRWD has applied for a Section 1135 feasibility investigation through the Army Corps of Engineers, which was recently approved to provide the means for the St. Paul District of the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake an investigation of potential fish and wildlife habitat restoration measures at full Federal expense up to $100,000.  02/11/16.

Lower Otter Tail River Vision Statement

Meeting Minutes


220th ST Ditch Investigation

In March 2017, local landowners came to the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), with a request to provide improved drainage along 220th ST in Sections 31 and 32, Mitchell Township, Wilkin County, to alleviate frequent flooded fields and crop loss.  At their March 27, 2017, meeting, the Board authorized Houston Engineering, Inc., (HEI) to conduct a preliminary investigation of several alternatives that would take the water directly west along 220th Street (one mile south of CSAH No. 26).

The BRRWD has scheduled a landowner informational meeting to discuss possible 220th ST drainage Improvements on Thursday, August 10, 2017, at 7:30 AM in the BRRWD Barnesville Office, 1303 4th AVE NE.  The meeting notice and HEI’s preliminary investigation with maps are linked below.  

Wilkin County Ditch No. 7 Repair

The Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District recently approved a repair investigation for a portion of Wilkin C.D. No. 7, located in Section 22, Andrea Township, in the northeast corner and running along the east side of 310th AVE for 1.75 miles before crossing to the west side of 310th AVE in Section 27.  From there the ditch continues to run south along the west side of 310th AVE for 0.25 miles, then turns westerly and runs along the north side of 330th ST for 3 miles before outletting to Wilkin C.D. No. 3, Lateral 2 at the section line between Andrea and Nilsen Townships.  The Repair Report and Plans, prepared by Houston Engineering, Inc., are linked below.  The Board of Managers plans to meet with Ditch No. 7 landowners to discuss the project on September 7, 2016. 

Wilkin County Ditch No. 6A Repair

The Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District recently approved a repair investigation for a portion of Wilkin C.D. No. 6A, located in Sections 31 and 32, Tanberg Township, and Sections 1, 2, 3, and 10, Meadows Township, beginning in the southeast corner of Section 32, and running west approximately 1.8 miles along the south sides of Sections 31 and 32.  At County Road No. 15, the ditch turns to the southwest and runs diagonally for approximately 3.3 miles through Sections 1, 2, 3, and 10 before ending at County Road No. 163.  The Repair Report and Plans, prepared by Houston Engineering, Inc., are linked below.  The Board of Managers plans to meet with Ditch No. 6A landowners to discuss the project on September 7, 2016. 




Project No. 49, Oakport Flood Mitigation


Oakport Hunting Authorization

Oakport Hunting Map

The spring flood of 1997 was devastating for the entire Red River Basin. In the Oakport area, over 150 homes were damaged, and over 200 homes isolated from public safety and services. Similar events in 1969, 2000, and 2001 prompted the Oakport residents to seek permanent flood control. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was asked to do a 205 Feasibility Study. In 2001, the USACE reported that a project would not meet their criteria. In November 2002, the Township asked the BRRWD to develop a project in accordance with Watershed Law. The BRRWD accepted the task, and construction of the $36 million project started in 2008. The project was not finished during the 2009 spring flood, so emergency measures were implemented, as necessary. The seven phases of the project were completed in 2016. The two individual levee systems, totaling approximately five miles in length, will be certified by FEMA.

Oakport Project Costs/Revenue

Dike Construction$22 M DNR$31 M
Buyouts$9 MLocal Benefits$3 M
Easements$1 MBRRWD$1 M
Engineering$2.5 MSale of Properties$0.75 M
Levee Certification$0.5 MAudubon Society Seeding$0.25 M
Geotechnical$0.5 M
Administrative$0.5 M


Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program wins Environmental Initiative Award 

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and their partners were selected as a winner for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program in the Food Stewardship category at the 2015 Environmental Initiative Awards. This program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. Winners were announced at the Environmental Initiative Awards celebration on Thursday, May 21, in Minneapolis. 

MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson said, “This award is a testament to the strong partnerships needed to address Minnesota’s environmental challenges. Our federal, state, local, private and nonprofit partners have been invaluable in the development and implementation of this program and we look forward to our continued partnership helping farmers protect Minnesota’s water resources.” 

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Farmers and landowners who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. 

Over the past eight months, agricultural operations at 41 farms representing more than 23,000 acres of land have been certified. More than 145 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters from nonpoint source pollution have also been implemented. The goal is to deliver certification services to all agricultural producers in the state within five years. 

“Each spring we gather to recognize individuals, organizations, businesses and communities who have joined forces to create a better environment for all Minnesotans. It’s really important to celebrate and share these success stories – because working together is hard work and isn’t always easy,” says Environmental Initiative’s Executive Director, Mike Harley. 

About Environmental Initiative

Environmental Initiative is a nonprofit organization that builds partnerships to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems. The organization brings together leaders from nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to find consensus on critical issues and respond with actions that have measurable, positive environmental outcomes (


In 2013, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) was selected by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to become one of the pilot areas to develop the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The MDA is piloting this program in four watersheds across the state to improve the program with local input. Pilot areas are located in four distinct regions of the state; these areas represent a diversity of Minnesota’s agricultural landscapes and cropping systems, differences in water resource concerns and also leverage the strength of existing local partnerships.

The pilot area within the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District is the Whiskey Creek / Wilkin County Ditch No. 31 watershed located in Otter Tail and Wilkin Counties.  The BRRWD and the Wilkin SWCD and West Otter Tail SWCD have teamed up to complete this pilot project.  A map of the pilot area can be seen by clicking on the following link:

Pilot Area Map 

The MAWQCP is a voluntary program designed to accelerate adoption of on-farm practices that protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.  Producers who implement and maintain approved farm Management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.  Certainty is an assurance that producers who voluntarily implement conservation practices consistent with the state’s water quality goals will be recognized for their effort.  The state agencies responsible for implementing agriculture and water quality regulation will recognize certified producers as already meeting any new pollution reduction requirements that may be developed during their term of certification.

 This program certifies producers for managing the land within an agricultural operation in a way that protects water quality. Agricultural operations are assessed based on:

  • Physical field characteristics
  • Nutrient management
  • Tillage management
  • Pest management
  • Irrigation and drainage management
  • Conservation practices

If you have any land within one of the pilot watersheds, you are eligible to participate in the program and to enhance the program with your feedback.  If the assessment identifies additional conservation actions the producer may choose to implement, priority technical and financial assistance will be available to producers seeking certification. Landowners should contact their local SWCD or the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District for more information.


The BRRWD was awarded Clean Water Fund (CWF) Grants through the Board of Water and Soil Resources to develop the MAWQCP in the Whiskey Creek / Wilkin County Ditch No. 31 watershed and to provide incentives to producers with land within the pilot area.  

2014 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects


MAWQCP Incentive Grant





Clay C.D. Nos. 9, 32, & 33 Redetermination of Benefits

A Redetermination of Benefits Hearing for Clay C.D. Nos. 9, 32, and 33 will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at 7:30 PM in the Council Chamber, Moorhead City Hall. 

The BRRWD Viewers will be available to meet with landowners on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM in Meeting Room B, Third Floor, Clay County Courthouse, 807 11th ST N, Moorhead, MN.

Notice and Exhibits:

Hearing Notice

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Viewers Reports:

Clay C.D. No. 9

Clay C.D. No. 32

Clay C.D. No. 33

Ditch Benefit Maps:

Clay C.D. No. 9

Clay C.D. No. 32

Clay C.D. No. 33

Sabin Area


Buffalo River Watershed WRAPS/TMDL

MPCA seeks comments on restoration/protection report and TMDL study for Buffalo River Watershed  

Buffalo River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy Report

Buffalo River Watershed TMDL

Detroit Lakes, Minn. — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking comments on a watershed restoration and protection report for the Buffalo River Watershed. The report, known as a Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), summarizes monitoring and water quality improvement projects completed over the past several years, and identifies strategies necessary to restore and protect the water quality of streams and lakes in the watershed. A public comment period begins March 30, 2015 and continues through April 29, 2015. 

The Buffalo River watershed covers more than 1,100 square miles in portions of Clay, Becker, Wilkin and Otter Tail counties in western Minnesota.  

Required by Minnesota’s Clean Water Legacy Act, a WRAPS is a document that summarizes scientific studies of a major watershed. These studies:

  • assess the physical, chemical and biological aspects of water quality in the watershed;
  • identify impaired water bodies and those in need of protection;
  • identify conditions that stress fish, aquatic insects and other organisms;
  • identify sources of pollution; and
  • propose strategies and actions designed to achieve and maintain water quality standards and goals. 


The WRAPS report includes a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study. A TMDL study establishes the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive on a daily basis and still meet water-quality standards. The Buffalo River TMDL identified pollution resulting from excess nutrients, E. coli bacteria, turbidity (reduced light penetration of water due to suspended solids), and low dissolved oxygen. In addition to these impairments, the study identified locations where conditions make it difficult to support aquatic insects (macro invertebrates) and fish. The TMDL study is also available for public review and comment. 

The draft WRAPS report and TMDL study are available on the MPCA’s Buffalo River Watershed webpage or may be examined at the MPCA Detroit Lakes office at 714 Lake Ave. 

Written comments should be mailed to Tim James, MPCA, 714 Lake Ave., Ste., 220, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, or sent by e-mail to . They must be received by 4:30 p.m. on April 29, 2015

If you wish to comment, please indicate clearly whether your comment(s) pertain to the WRAPS report or the TMDL study. 

Written comments on the WRAPS report or TMDL study must include:

  • a statement of your interest in the WRAPS report or TMDL study;
  • a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the WRAPS report or TMDL study that you believe should be changed; and
  • specific reasons supporting your position 


After reviewing comments, the MPCA may revise the draft WRAPS report and TMDL study before submitting them to the EPA for approval. 

For more information, contact James by e-mail or call him at 218-846-8103. More information is available also from Bruce Albright, Buffalo River Watershed administrator (phone 218 354-7710, or e-mail 

Information on Minnesota’s impaired waters list and TMDL studies is available on the MPCA website at or by calling 800-657-3864.


The Turtle Lake outlet is currently not running. We will continue to monitor lake levels and operate the outlets as needed.

The property where the siphons are located is private property.  Please respect the rights of these landowners and don’t trespass. If you have any questions or concerns about the siphon system, please direct them to the BRRWD. If you have questions about your Assessment, please review the Explanation and the Appraisers Report below.


Current Lake Levels Graph

Historic Lake Levels Graph

2013 Appraisers Report

Assessment Explanation

1999 Appraisers Report

This page was last updated on December 28, 2020.



In 2013, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) requested and was awarded a Performance Review and Assistance Program (PRAP) grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). In April of 2012, the BRRWD was expanded to include additional lands in Wilkin and Otter Tail Counties. The Board of Managers and their staff desire to improve their operational effectiveness and overall performance. An out-of-agency specialist was brought in to examine the current District operations, identify strengths and weaknesses, and to work with the Board of Managers and District Staff to formulate a strategic plan for the Watershed District. More information can be found on the BWSR PRAP Website.

2014 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects

PRAP and Training Assistance Grant

Upper Red River Watershed TMDL Study


The Minnesota portion of the Upper Red River Watershed (URRW) encompasses 499 square miles within the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) and is the focus of the Upper Red River Watershed Restoration and Protection (WRAP) project. The majority of the watershed lies in Clay and Wilkin Counties, with a small portion of the watershed within Otter Tail County. The URRW is bordered on the west by the Red River of the North (Red River), to the north and east by the Buffalo River Watershed, and to the east and south by the Otter Tail River Watershed. Municipalities within the URRW include Georgetown, Dilworth, Moorhead, Sabin, Comstock, Wolverton, Rothsay, Kent, and Breckenridge.

MPCA has listed 12 reaches within the URRW as impaired for water quality. Ten of the 12 impairments account for the entire stretch of the Red River bordering the western edge of the URRW. The other two reaches are Whiskey Creek and Wolverton Creek. No lakes within the URRW appear on the impaired waters list. The BRRWD and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) are working together with other partners to restore these impaired waters while continuing to protect waters that do meet standards and prevent them from becoming impaired. These efforts are being done under the Upper Red River WRAP project and are driven by the MPCA’s Watershed Approach. Click here to learn more about this Approach.

The Upper Red River WRAP began in 2012 and will end in 2014. Outcomes of the project will include the setting of water quality goals and targets for reducing pollution and the identification of strategies to achieve these goals and targets.

WRAP project Phases / Products

Objectives of the work include:

  • Prepare a Watershed Conditions Report for the URRW, which describes the physical, economic, and social setting and compute various water quality and flow statistics for use in assessing the health of the URRW’s waters; (completed in September 2012 and viewable here).
  • Design and implement civic engagement activities that inform and engage the public in the WRAP process;
  • Work with local partners to identify water quality stressors and priority management areas in the URRW;
  • Use computer models and other techniques to identify sources and causes of water quality impairments;
  • Develop pollutant load allocations and protection strategies within the URRW;
  • Prepare a draft Upper Red River WRAP Project Plan;
  • Prepare a draft URRW Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) document;
  • Prepare a final Upper Red River WRAP Project Plan; and
  • Prepare a final URRW TMDL document, for submission to the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Intensive Watershed Monitoring Results Highlighted in Conditions Reports

As part of the MPCA’s watershed approach, the agency has begun an Intensive Watershed Monitoring (IWM) program to assess the health of the 81 major watersheds across the state on a 10-year cycle, monitoring for both chemical and biological factors. The URRW was among the first to complete this monitoring. The IWM took place during the 2008 monitoring seasons. A map of the sites included in that work is available here.

The IWM included findings that: 1) There are currently no stream segments in the watershed that fully support aquatic life or aquatic recreation.; and 2) Habitat throughout the watershed was observed to be generally in poor condition with concerns over dissolved oxygen levels.

Public Involvement

We need your help! It’s important that those who live in the URRW are involved, because you know the area better than anyone else. We need your insights to identify the places that are important to consider as well as identify solutions that are workable within the community. The current project team includes a group of stakeholders that represents land owners and residents. However, anyone who is interested can join this group at any time or attend any of the public meetings associated with the project. As the project reaches important milestones, such as completing the reports mentioned above, open houses are held to share results and discuss findings. Upon request, the project team will also share developments with local groups. Please watch for your opportunity to participate and come back to this website to find project updates and announcements of public meetings.

Additional Links

MPCA Upper Red River Watershed page
Upper Red River Watershed Restoration and Protection Project Team Participants
Map of the Stream Monitoring Locations in the URRW
MPCA Watershed Approach

Contact Us

Contact us by email to learn how you can get involved, request a presentation, ask a question or provide a comment. Or just give us a call at the BRRWD office, (218) 354-7710


The following organizations and agencies are working with the Watershed District on the Restoration and Protection Project:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Advisory Committee Organization Chart
Buffalo-Red River Watershed District
Houston Engineering, Inc

319 Sediment Modeling

Location: Northwestern Minnesota
Client: Buffalo-Red River Watershed District

The most important water quality issues within the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) and many portions of Minnesota are the sources and amounts of sediment reaching our waterways and waterbodies. Understanding the sediment sources, the magnitude of these sources, and their affect on the rivers and streams, is critical to improving water quality.

A sediment production model was produced by the University of Minnesota Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), under contract to the BRRWD, where the amount of sediment leaving the landscape, actually reaching waterways, and accumulating within a pilot area of the BRRWD (the South Branch of the Buffalo River) was estimated. Application of the model to evaluate the effect of various conservation practices occurred only on a limited basis.

The Project:
The focus of this study is to expand upon the modeling work previously performed. The SWAT computer model will be used to develop sediment water quality goals, and practical measures to achieve these goals, for the BRRWD. The computer model will be used to establish sediment goals, by modeling land use conditions prior to modern agriculture (i.e., pre-modern agricultural circa 1950’s). The estimated sediment concentrations for pre-modern agriculture will in essence establish benchmark sediment conditions within the BRRWD. The computer model will then be used to evaluate 2 to 3 concepts to improve water quality. Current expectations are that these concepts will be consistent with some aspect of the current farm program (or additional practical measures) and include: 1) buffers along legal drainage systems and other waterways; 2) permanent vegetative cover similar to the Conservation Reserve Program; 3) grassed swales; and 4) tillage practices.

The SWAT computer modeling effort will aid in establishing sediment goals, guide focused implementation actions on the landscape, and quantify benefits. Expectations are that the measures identified by modeling will be implemented (as action items) within the District’s Watershed Management Plan, which is currently under revision.



Project No. 56, Manston Slough Restoration

MINNESOTA ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVE AWARDS: 2015 Partnership of the Year and Natural Resources

Manston Slough Wins Top Honors at Environmental Initiative Awards Program 

Wilkin County, Minn. – The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District and their partners were recognized with top honors at the 2015 Environmental Initiative Awards for the Manston Slough Restoration project. The project won the evening’s highest honor, 2015 Partnership of the Year, and also received the Natural Resources category award. 

This statewide awards program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. Winners were announced at the Environmental Initiative Awards celebration on Thursday, May 21, in Minneapolis. 

Manston Slough is a more than 2,500-acre shallow wetland complex located in Wilkin County, Minnesota, in the Red River Basin. Before this project began, more than 75% of the historic wetland in the area had been completely drained. 

State agencies, federal agencies, a nonprofit organization and more than 33 private landowners collaborated over many years to restore the Manston Slough wetland and surrounding area. The entire project encompasses over 7,000 acres providing countless hunting and recreational opportunities for the general public.

 “Collaboration isn’t always easy. This project is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished for our environment and for all Minnesotan’s when we choose to work together,” says Environmental Initiative’s Executive Director, Mike Harley. 

About Environmental Initiative

Environmental Initiative is a nonprofit organization that builds partnerships to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems. The organization brings together leaders from nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to find consensus on critical issues and respond with actions that have measurable, positive environmental outcomes.


Location: On Wilkin County Ditch No. 13-Lateral, a tributary to the South Branch of the Buffalo River, in northern Wilkin County
Client: Buffalo-Red River Watershed District

The Manston Slough project was initiated after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began looking at enhancing wetlands in the E½ of Section 19, Manston Township, in the Manston Wildlife Management Area (WMA). After review of the site by the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) and their Engineer, Houston Engineering, Inc., the BRRWD and their Mediation Project Team (PT) decided that a larger, more comprehensive project would restore historic wetland water levels while providing additional flood control. The final Manston Slough project extends across almost seven square miles and includes parts of Mitchell, Manston, and Meadows Townships in Wilkin County. The project site is located near the bottom of the beach ridge on very flat topography. Runoff from the east drops quickly through the landscape upstream of the site and then enters the Manston Slough area, spilling out of various waterways that drain into the historic basin. The area was initially drained in the late 1800s with the construction of Ditch No. 15 by the State of Minnesota. The project site is approximately two miles wide in the east-west direction and four miles long in the north-south direction. A large portion of the Manston Slough project area includes land owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and DNR. During meetings with personnel from the DNR and the USFWS, it became evident that, in addition to flood control, the site also had great potential for wildlife habitat enhancement.

LIDAR aerial and GPS ground survey was conducted on the project site in order to obtain ground elevations for the site. A geotechnical investigation was also started to determine the subsurface conditions. The NRCS and Ducks Unlimited (DU) supported the project by encouraging property owners in the flood pool and wetland areas around the project site to sign up for Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP). In 2003, the Governor’s Clean Water Cabinet selected this site as one of their Pilot Project Initiatives.

The Project:
The project drainage area is 26.5 square miles and extends approximately 7 miles east of the site. The project includes:

  • A low hazard classification dam with 4,340 acre-feet of storage below the Emergency Spillway Crest
  • 1,147 acres of wetland restoration
  • A water level control structure to manage wetland elevations
  • Upland watershed treatment to control erosion 

The dam embankment has a maximum height of approximately eight feet and primarily consists of modifications to existing roads. The principal spillway consists of a reinforced concrete culvert through the dam embankment and a reinforced concrete box drop inlet. Stop logs in the side of the box inlet allow management of the wetland pool,  operation and maintenance of the project, and provided drawdown capability for access to the site during construction. The 300-foot vegetated emergency spillway is designed to convey discharges in excess of the principal spillway capacity at nonerosive velocities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ HEC-HMS and HEC-RAS computer programs were used extensively to simulate runoff events and aid in the design of spillway features. Wilkin County Ditch No. 13-Lateral will serve as the outlet channel.

A preliminary cost-benefit analysis was conducted for the project. Final  project costs were $6.3 million. Project benefits are expected to exceed $15 million.

  • Floodwater storage and retention.
  • Natural resource enhancement – 1,147 acres of new restored wetland in addition to enhancement of existing wetlands.
  • Nutrient assimilation, resulting in improved water quality.
  • Sediment entrapment, resulting in improved downstream water quality.
  • Buffalo Aquifer groundwater recharge.
  • Improved nesting habitat for waterfowl and improved habitat for breeding, brood rearing, feeding or cover purposes for other species.
  • Provides an educational opportunity for watershed managers, engineers, agency employees and the public, due to the diversity and uniqueness of the project. 


  • Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (M.S.A. 103D.905, Subd. 3) – $1,257,267
  • State of Minnesota DNR Flood Damage Reduction Grant – $3,765,742
  • Project Assessments per Benefited Party (M.S.A. 103D.725) – $628,633
  • Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources-Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) – $347,000
  • Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) CPL Grants Program – $350,000


Clean Water Fund Projects


On November 4, 2008, Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment to the constitution to:

  • protect drinking water sources;
  • protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat;
  • preserve arts and cultural heritage;
  • support parks and trails;
  • and protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.


The Amendment increases the sales and use tax rate by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales, starting July 1, 2009, continuing through 2034. Those dollars are dedicated to four funds: Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, Parks and Trails Fund, and Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

BWSR has received appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Clean Water Fund.

Wolverton Creek Restoration-Phase 1-2016


2013 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects
Targeted Drainage Water Management


Conservation Drainage Management
Water Quality Improvement for Clay C.D. Nos. 9, 32, 33


Clean Water Assistance
Upper South Branch Strategic BMP Implementation – Part 2


2012 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects
Accelerated Implementation Buffalo-Red River Watershed District BMP Strategic Plan


2011 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects

Runoff Reduction: Upper South Branch Strategic BMP Implementation Plan
Project Partners: West Otter Tail SWCD, Wilkin SWCD


Continuation of Hay Creek/Stinking Lake Sediment Reduction
Project Partners: Becker SWCD (Fiscal / Reporting Agent)


Wolverton Creek Restoration and Sediment Reduction Project
Project Partners: Clay SWCD, Wilkin SWCD, MN DNR