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. Its goal was to reduce erosion in the Nemadji Watershed. In Minnesota, efforts focused on sediment retention structures in two sub watersheds of the Nemadji River Basin: Skunk Creek and Deer Creek. Sixteen structures were constructed in the Skunk Creek Watershed and four structures were constructed in the Deer Creek Watershed. The design life of these structures was 10 – 25 years depending on the specific project.
A series of three dams were installed on Elim 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.
In the fall of 2014, construction of a stream restoration was completed. Engineering and design work was completed by the South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District (Technical Service Area 3), construction was completed by Superior Construction, 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. Approximately 1/3 of a mile of stream was restored.