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Black River Impoundment

Drone photo of the project under construction
Black River Impoundment

Location:  Near Thief River Falls, Minnesota
Client:  Red Lake Watershed District


After the historic 1997 Red River flood event, the Red River Basin Commission established a strategy in 2010 that identified tributaries contributing to the Red River and established a 20% basinwide peak flow and volume reduction goal for the watersheds that would reduce future flood events.

The Red Lake Watershed District (RLWD) was one of several districts to conduct an expanded distributed detention strategy. The Black River subwatershed was identified within that strategy as a location that would contribute to those reduction goals.

The Project

The RLWD identified four alternative sites to investigate. The selected alternative was chosen based on landowner support and storage capabilities. HEI was selected to move forward with preliminary engineering and environmental investigation of the selected site.

HEI completed the design and hydraulic studies in 2018, and construction is nearing the final stages. This project is one of the first to be constructed within the basin to work towards the 20% peak flow and volume reduction goal. 

Below is a video highlighting the construction progress in August 2021.

The project consists of:
  • An earthen embankment levee that stretches 3.1 miles in total length
  • A concrete principal concrete spillway
  • An auxiliary earthen spillway
  • 3,162-acre-feet gated storage
  • 902-acre-feet ungated storage
  • Diversion ditches and outlet channels designed for a 10-year rainfall event
These components will provide the area flood damage reduction benefits and improved drainage for the heavily agricultural area.

This project was featured as the cover story in HEI's 2021 Spring/Summer newsletter.

Presentation Video

Tony Nordby, PE, is the Project Manager overseeing the Black River Impoundment project. He gave a presentation at the Red River Basin Commission's Annual Conference in January 2021. In this presentation, Tony tells the project's story from inception to construction. Watch the video recording below to learn more.