DIVERSION DISCUSSION: Dam in Drayton, N.D., will mitigate fish passage limitations

FARGO – One feature of the Red River diversion project isn’t remotely close to Fargo-Moorhead.

About 210 river miles north on the Red, F-M taxpayer dollars will help fund modifications to the dam near Drayton, N.D.

Drayton, dubbed the “Catfish Capital of the North,” is 30 miles south of the Canadian border.

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The town is home to one of several low-head dams on the Red River that are used to control water supply in the valley.

As a consequence, though, the Drayton dam currently limits the ability of fish to naturally pass down the river.

But with the F-M diversion, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hoping to kill two birds with one stone: improve fish passage at Drayton to offset impacts to fish passage that will be caused by the diversion project.

Federal law requires the Army Corps and local stakeholders to remedy any environmental impacts the project is expected to have.

The corps projects that the features of the F-M diversion will reduce fish passage where the channel and levees intersect with the Red and Wild Rice rivers, south of the metro area.

Officials aim to mitigate that problem farther north on the Red River, by converting or rebuild the Drayton dam to better accommodate fish, corps project manager Aaron Snyder said.

According to the corps’ final environmental impact statement on the F-M diversion project, the Drayton dam is one of several mitigation features that will be needed to address fish passage impacts from the diversion.

Of 13 possible fish passage sites the corps looked at to offset the diversion’s impacts, “the Drayton dam provides the greatest environmental output for the assumed cost,” the corps wrote.

The Drayton project is estimated to cost $6.5 million to build and $314,000 in annual operation and maintenance costs.

A team of Army Corps engineers will begin designing the new Drayton dam this month, as part of other ongoing design efforts for the Red River diversion project.

If work on the Drayton site goes to schedule, the project could be ready for construction sometime in summer 2013.

However, as with any other facet of the Red River diversion project, congressional authorization and funding are needed before construction can begin.

Have a question about the proposed Red River diversion, or want to recommend a topic you’d like to see addressed in an upcoming column?
Send an e-mail to Forum reporter Kristen Daum at kdaum@forumcomm.com (Subject: Diversion Discussion) or write to Kristen Daum c/o The Forum, P.O. Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
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