April 2017 Two-Phase Rock Dam Modernization & Fish Passage Project

Rock Dam and Pine River Fish Passage Project

The current low lake level is due to a washout of the bank at the east end of our rock dam. Rather than wasting time and money on a temporary repair to the old dam, we are now planning to accelerate the installation of a permanent section of the new dam.

By splitting the new dam project into two phases, we hope to install a portion of the planned dike as soon as possible to prevent further erosion of the fragile east bank and redirect the river flow back over the rock dam, raising our lake to a usable level in the process.  

Although this cannot happen overnight, we believe it will be completed as quickly as any temporary repair project and much earlier than the entire new permanent project.

A concern regarding the impact of low water levels on Big Pine Lake fish populations was recently raised by a BPL homeowner.  As a service to its members, BPLA contacted the MN DNR Fisheries Division and submitted a query to the landowner’s question.  Below is the response that was promptly received from the DNR:

“The biggest risk to fish populations from low water would be from winterkill due to low dissolved oxygen under the ice.  If there was any significant winterkill there would have been dead fish visible as the ice was opening up. Winterkill was unlikely this year with low snow cover and several melt/rain events during the winter. 

Low water conditions can benefit fish populations in the long run by stimulating growth of emergent vegetation such as bulrushes which then becomes important fish habitat when the water level again increases for species such as crappies, sunfish, bass, and pike.   

The breach in the dam won’t cause any more fish to leave than [would be the case] with past dam configurations.  Some fish probably continually move into the Big Pine Lake area from the upstream Pine River and out of Cross Lake, and when they can pass the rock dam going upstream, from the downstream Pine River and even the Mississippi.   

I’ve only seen some pictures so I cannot say if fish are able to move upstream through the breach area any better than before the washout.”

Status updates and Breaking News items are now being sent periodically to all BPLA members via email.  Please refer to those emails for the latest status on the new dam project.