South Branch Buffalo River Restoration

The South Branch of the Buffalo River is a tributary to the Buffalo River and is located in Wilkin and Clay Counties, MN. The proposed project has a subwatershed area of approximately 27 square miles, starting east in Norwegian Grove and Trondhjem Townships and proceeding west through Prairie View, Tanberg, Atherton, and Manston Townships. Drainage within the subwatershed generally runs from east to west and south to north.

 

There are two public legal drainage ditches located within the South Branch Buffalo River – Phase 1 subwatershed; Wilkin County Ditch No. 44 Lateral A and Wilkin County Ditch No. 44 Lateral B. The two laterals connect at the northeast corner of Section 10 and continue west, on the south side of 170th St to create the existing headwaters of the South Branch Buffalo River.

 

In the early 1910’s Wilkin County Ditch (WCD) No. 44 was constructed, cutting off the drainage area to the natural stream channel at the headwaters of the South Branch of the Buffalo River. WCD No. 44 ditch system was originally constructed as branches of Judicial Ditch No. 3. Since

then, multiple flood events have occurred in the region causing agricultural field damages as well as damages to public and private infrastructure. Most notably, in 2009 breakout flows from both WCD No. 40 and 44 scoured the landscape and formed a large gully channel through Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Atherton Township, Wilkin County. Breakout flows erode agricultural topsoil and deposit this sediment within the South Branch channel, causing increases in turbidity and decreased aquatic habitat, as well as reducing the channel’s natural capacity to convey flood flows.

 

Phase 1 of the proposed South Branch Buffalo River Restoration Project will focus on restoring the South Branch of the Buffalo River by returning the flow diverted by the constructed WCD No. 44 channels back into the historic natural waterway alignment.

Project Goals and Objectives:

  • Maintain conveyance by restoring the natural flow path of the South Branch of the Buffalo River.

  • Reduce the occurrence and magnitude of flood damages to agricultural fields.

  • Improve water quality by reducing sediment and nutrient loadings to the channel through the creation of a stable natural prairie stream.

  • Improve wildlife habitat along the stream corridor through natural channel design.