Shell Rock River Watershed District IC&E Wetland Restoration

Freeborn County, MN | Water


The Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD), alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), collaborated to restore several wetland complexes to provide additional water storage and wildlife habitat for waterfowl migration.


The Miller and Orr wetland complexes, located along the former Iowa, Chicago, and Eastern (IC&E) Railroad corridor, were tiled and drained in the early 1900s for agricultural production. The SRRWD and USFWS used grant funding to acquire the tracts of land and SRRWD received Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council funding for construction of the wetlands, which was divided into two implementation phases.


ISG was engaged to design the restoration of seven wetland basins ranging in size from a quarter of an acre to 22 acres, covering approximately 55 total acres. Several of the wetlands were designed to connect and drain into each other and all of the wetlands discharge into the Freeborn County Ditch No. 54 drainage system. Completed in phases, designs included breaking and rerouting over 10,000 feet of existing public drainage system tiles to provide adequate drainage for upland agricultural lands within the system’s watershed. Other components of construction included outlet structures, drainage swales, and tile breaks to restore wetland hydrology to the basins and soils. Working closely with the USFWS, ISG completed several smaller wetland scrapes in 5,000 to 10,000 square foot elevated areas to provide diversified water habitat and support migration.

ISG followed the Impoundment, Abandonment, and Reroute Statute of 103E to restore the wetlands while still protecting the public drainage infrastructure along CD 54. A detailed hydrological/hydraulic model was prepared, designs were reviewed with the drainage authority, and ISG presented to the drainage authority and impacted landowners at a public hearing.

Currently in construction, the wetlands will improve water quality, increase flood storage capacity, enhance wildlife habitat, and add over 250 acres of continuous restored native prairie to the area.

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