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Chippewa National Forest receives national ‘Rise to the Future Award’

CASS LAKE — The U.S. Forest Service’s Chippewa National Forest recently received the prestigious national “Rise to the Future” award for the Knutson Dam Replacement Project on the Mississippi River. The award is the highest national recognition of aquatic accomplishment that the U.S. Forest Service bestows. This award emphasizes collaborative and integrated efforts with partners in aquatic resource management that result in meaningful changes to U.S. Forest Service aquatic resource conditions.

The Knutson Dam Replacement Project has been a collaborative effort. Darla Lenz, Chippewa National forest supervisor, credits the many Chippewa staff and project partners, including the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership and Ottertail Power Company, for the success of the project.

The project removed the failing Knutson Dam and reconnected the Mississippi River at the outlet of Cass Lake through construction of an innovative rock arch rapids. The project restored spawning habitat for species such as walleye and white sucker. It enhanced aquatic organism passage to over 30 miles of river and more than 72,000 acres of lakes such as Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish, which are world-class walleye fisheries.

This project also improved recreational fishing access through the addition of a modern fishing pier, reduced the potential for lakeshore erosion on Cass Lake, and reduced the safety hazard of the former logging dam.

The Knutson Dam Replacement Project was also selected for the Lake and River Stewardship Award, according to Todd Tisler, Chippewa National Forest Fish and Wildlife program manager.