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Dredging contract approved

Lake project could begin this June

The Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers Thursday approved a nearly $5.1 million contract with LaCrosse, Wisconsin-based J.F. Brennan Co. Inc. for the first phase of Fountain Lake dredging.

The company is expected to possibly complete initial survey and staging work in May, with dredging beginning in June. First phase work is expected to last until the end of 2019.

After the vote, interim Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel said J.F. Brennan compared favorably to the two other companies that were in the best value valuation process, Newt Marine and White Lake Dock & Dredge. J.F. Brennan reportedly added incentives to the project that the Watershed District did not make specifications on.

“It just showed that they put a lot of thought and effort into the bid process, and I think they are a real reputable company, and I think they’ll do a great job for us,” Henschel said.

The Watershed District will need to undergo separate contract processes for the project’s second and third phases.

J.F. Brennan is expected to use its pipeline and 14- to 16-foot dredge for first phase work. The Watershed District’s dredge will not be used, but district-owned pumps will.

The Watershed District’s Dredge Committee is expected to recommend the future of the district’s dredge to the board. 

The first phase of dredging is expected to remove up to 617,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of Edgewater Bay. Bottom sediment removed is expected to be around 1 to 5 feet, and in a few areas deeper fish habitat holes have been included in the project design.

Prior to the vote, Henschel presented a brief overview of the work the Watershed District undertook prior to the contract process.

The Watershed District purchased the properties for the confined disposal facility — north of Interstate 90 and 1 1/2 miles north of Fountain Lake — in 2016.

The CDF will be used to manage sediments. A CDF is a dewatering site in the dredging process. When dredging takes place, there will be a mixture of water and sediment pumped to the disposal facility, and the CDF will be used to settle the sediment and siphon off the water.

After the vote, manager Gary Pestorious spoke highly of the aggressive approach he said the district has taken to meet its goals.

“This is a big day today, and it’s a long time coming,” he said, adding local organizations have helped the district in the lead-up to dredging.

Following the vote, the crowd of about 20 people gave the board a standing ovation.

“I am happy to report to the community that we have all of our bases covered and are ready to dredge,” said board chairman Dan DeBoer in a press release. “Mr. Henschel, it’s time to bring it home and get Fountain Lake dredged.”

In the release, Henschel said the district was “very pleased with the final bid package that was approved.”

“J.F. Brennan is a reputable and experienced contractor, and their bid came in at $5.09 million — this translates to $7.30 per cubic yard. This is a fair outcome and clearly in our sweet spot for achieving the volume we wanted at a good price.”

“Opening up the bidding pool to allow contractors to utilize our dredge was clearly instrumental in achieving this final/favorable bid price. We clearly increased the competition between bidders by allowing contractors to bid that did not have their own equipment.”

He said the district’s dredge “played a crucial role in demonstrating to the Legislature and the DNR that we were serious and committed to this project. The board will need to carefully evaluate whether or not to keep our dredge for future projects.”

The awarding of the contract came two weeks after the district announced it was evaluating five bids for the work.

After the meeting, Henschel spoke highly of the work other organizations undertook in the process.

“It’s been a long road, and we’re finally here at contract one, which is a very good moment,” he said. “And the Lakes Foundation, the city of Albert Lea, Freeborn County, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, we’ve all been here, we’ve all went to the Capitol and rallied for the bonding dollars.

“Again, it’s just a huge win for our community and our organizations to make this a better place.”

In other news, the board:

• Approved a 5 percent raise for Henschel, who has also been working as a field engineer. The raise, which takes effect immediately, is planned to be in effect until a permanent administrator is hired. Henschel became interim administrator in January after former administrator Brett Behnke resigned.

• Approved a $35,000 bid to Wells-based Dulas Excavating Inc. to divert standing water as a result of the construction of the CDF.

• Approved the purchase of more than $8,100 in water monitoring equipment.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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