Red Clay Project: Phase I
The Red Clay Dam Phase I Project is a three part project, funded by the Clean Water Fund, aimed at addressing the 1970s Red Clay dams within the Nemadji Watershed in Carlton County.
The Red Clay Project was a 1970’s era project that encompassed watersheds in the Lake Superior Basin portion of North East Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin. Primary partners included the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with local Soil and Water Conservation District support.
In Minnesota, efforts focused on sediment retention structures in two sub watersheds of the Nemadji River Basin: Skunk Creek and Deer Creek in Carlton County. Sixteen structures were constructed in the Skunk Creek Watershed and four structures were constructed in the Deer Creek Watershed. The project also constructed several ditch stabilization projects. The design life of these structures was 10 – 25 years depending on the specific project.
Elim Creek is in the Skunk Creek Watershed, which is a tributary of the turbidity impaired North Fork of the Nemadji River. The 2014 dam removal project on Elim Creek involved a series of three structures within the 1/3 mile section of creek. The furthest downstream structure had failed causing approximately 304 tons of sediment to be flushed into the watershed. The two upstream structures both had rusted principle pipe spillways, making failure a serious threat. This failure would result in an estimated additional soil loss of 956 tons as the channel worked to stabilize itself. This project, completed in late fall of 2014, eliminated this threat by removing the structures and restoring a natural stream channel to Elim Creek to alleviate continued long term sediment delivery.
Engineering and design work was completed by the South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District (Technical Service Area 3), construction was completed by a contractor in Duluth, riparian tree planting was conducted by the Conservation Corps field crew, and the grant was managed by the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District. The project was funded through a BWSR Clean Water Fund grant and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Passage Program.