After years of efforts at the local state level, good news came to Redwood Falls May 30.
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Mark Dayton approved the 2018 capital investment (bonding) bill, and with it a project that has been discussed for decades will now proceed.
Within the $825 million in the bonding bill is a $7.3 million allocation for the dredging of Lake Redwood.
“This is very exciting,” said Jim Doering, City of Redwood Falls public works project coordinator. “This is a project that has been a long time in coming.”
According to Doering, discussions about reclaiming Lake Redwood began in 1983 when an organization of homeowners around the lake formed what is known as the Friends of Lake Redwood.
That group, he said, wanted to find out just how feasible it would be to bring the local lake back to its former glory when people would swim, fish and otherwise recreate in the water.
Initially created when the hydroelectric dam was installed, Lake Redwood has been collecting sediment for more than a century, and, according to Doering, the allocation from the state would result in the removal of 655,000 cubic yards of sediment. That material would then be land applied.
“It is great news that this project has been approved in the bonding bill,” said District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms. “As a freshman senator I carried this bill, and I have carried it each year since then.”
Dahms said he was not the first to carry the bill, as former Sen. Dennis Frederickson also pushed for the reclamation of the lake and even got an allocation approved for that work a number of years ago.
Doering, who was part of that effort as the director of the Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA), said the $1.3 million allocation came short of the bids that exceeded $5 million. That meant the work would not be accomplished.
Doering said he is confident that the $7.3 million allocation will get the job done.
At this point, Doering said it is not clear which agency those who are moving the project forward locally will be working with at the state level, but he added the funding will come through the RCRCA.
“This funding bill brings back a tremendous recreational asset for Redwood Falls, and I’m very happy to see that happening,” said District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson in a news release announcing the approval of the bonding bill.
While the Lake Redwood project is primarily ready to go, Doering said there is some work that needs to be done prior to the start of the work, including an update of the design plan, new approval of the permits and a final contractual agreement with the landowner where the dredged sediment will be applied.
Ideally, much of that work would be done soon, said Doering, with the project then going out for bids.
While there is a chance work could start in Spring 2019, Doering thinks it will more likely be the following year when everything is put in place and the tasks accomplished.
The design plan calls for cells to be established in the lake where future sediment would be held until it could be removed.
Yes, said Doering, sediment will continue to settle in the lake, but the amount coming in has been drastically reduced over the past couple of decades.
When he first started working with Bob Finley at RCRCA about a foot and a half of sediment was settling in the lake annually. Today less than one-tenth of a foot is settling.
“This is a project that would never have been feasible without the conservation work done on the river,” said Doering, adding those practices implemented by landowners in the watershed helped to slow down the amount of sediment making the project possible.
The removal of 655,000 cubic yards of sediment will offer an average depth of 20 feet in Lake Redwood, said Doering, adding the design allows for varied depths to help create different ecosystems in the lake.
For the city, which has agreed to provide a $900,000 match for the project, the dredging will improve electrical output using the dam initially established by A.C. Burmeister, and for the region, state and national removal of the sediment will mean less material continuing down the river and dumping into larger watersheds and river systems.
Gov. Dayton announced he had signed the bonding bill Wednesday, but added during a conference call with rural media representatives Thursday afternoon that he did it with some hesitation.
“There are a lot of good projects in this bill,” said Dayton, “but there are also a number of deficiencies.”
Dayton said he did not think the $825 million number was sufficient, adding he had proposed a $1.5 billion bonding bill that still left out billions of dollars of requests.
Dayton cautioned that the lack of funding means a number of projects that need to be accomplished are not going to get done, adding that means the legislature is just kicking those projects down the road when it will be even more expensive to accomplish them.
“I am glad the governor saw the value of these projects and what they mean to southwest Minnesota,” Sen. Dahms said in a recent press release. “We legislators gave him a bonding bill that was balanced and within the state’s budget.”
According to Sen. Dahms, the following projects were approved for this area:
• $700,000 for the Minnesota River Basin Area II.
• $1 million for the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority.
• $3.1 million to design, construct, furnish and equip the driver training and road course expansion of the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training (MERIT) Center in Marshall.
• $7.3 million to predesign, design, construct, and equip the reservoir reclamation and enhancement of Lake Redwood.
• $9.4 million for a new veterans home in Montevideo. Other projects that will have local and regional impact:
• $45 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR).
• $64.35 million for the Public Facilities Authority (PFA) including $25 million in Wastewater Infrastructure Funding (WIF) grants.
• $400 million for the Corridors of Commerce including $144 million for Highway 14 and $100 million for Highway 23.
“Several of these projects have been considered for bonding over the past several years,” said Dahms. “It is good that we were able to get these projects included in this year’s bonding bill, as they are very important projects for not only our local communities but our entire region.”