First year of dredging is coming to a close in about a month

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dredging in Edgewater Bay is expected to wrap up for the year within a month as sediment pulled from the lake bottom works its way toward the fill point for the confined disposal facility.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel said JF Brennan, the dredging and marine construction company hired to complete phase one of the Fountain Lake project, has dredged over 200,000 cubic yards of sediment of a bid contract that specified no more than 300,000 cubic yards would be put into CDF cell one.

Because of that cap, Henschel said Brennan is planning to dredge through Oct. 5, after which it will begin the winterization process for both the dredge and the CDF site.

“Other than that, everything is going well,” Henschel said.

The district also continues to make steps toward the construction of CDF cells two and three.

“The plan is to start cells two and three this fall and get the compaction that we need on those berm areas where we were running into (those) peatier soils,” Henschel said.

The board also utilized a 2016 statute allowing the district to negotiate with contractors to lower the bid for its Fountain Lake Wetland Bank restoration project. The project looks to create a wetland bank at the site of the former Albert Lea Country Club. This will help the district fulfill wetland permit obligations for the wetlands it will impact in the construction process for CDF cells two and three.

Henschel said district staff recommended rejecting all bids because the lowest bid was still 30 percent over the engineer’s estimate for what the project should cost. After the Watershed District received two quotes by direct negotiation, the board approved a move forward on the project with Bennett & Sons Sand and Gravel with the lowest quote of $129,831.13. The engineer’s estimate, provided by WSB & Associates, was approximately $107,066.

Additionally, assessments made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shed light on fish populations in Albert Lea and Fountain lakes. Shell Rock River Watershed District Conservation Technician Scott Christenson said the DNR’s assessments showed an extreme increase in black bullhead numbers with a catch that more than quadrupled from the last DNR assessment in 2015. Common carp netted more than doubled during the same time period. The lake has also seen a substantial decline in walleye and yellow perch, Christenson reported.

“Those are the fish that are relying on those early springs and warmer water temperatures in shallower waters,” he said. “That late ice out really impacted some of the native fish.”

Of native fish assessed, black crappies and orange-spotted sunfish showed increases from the last survey.

DNR assessments in Fountain Lake show a black bullhead number increase, a solid black crappie population and a low common carp population. Christenson said netting surveys conducted did not bring in young carp. He also noted community members are catching fish out of the dredge cuts.

In Pickerel Lake, Christenson said 2017 sampling showed reductions in phosphorus compared to 2007.

“Our restoration efforts have been showing off — showing improvements to the lake and to the phosphorus levels in the sediment,” he said.

Looking forward, Christenson said the district will conduct electrofishing surveys to update the biomass estimates in Fountain Lake.

In other action:

The board approved continuations of the $250,000 administrative levy, which has been in place since 2003, and a debt service levy, the payoff from which will be $168,000 for 2019. A $161,000 debt service levy was approved in 2017 and implemented this year.

Henschel said the slight increase in the debt service levy is based on the bond payback schedule. Depending on the year, interest rates may increase or decrease by small increments. These are proposed levies and have yet to be approved by the Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer.

The board tabled a resolution for a project bid on Upper Twin Lake as the district did not receive any bids for the project. Christenson said the district is looking to rebid in October, when contractors have less on their plates.

The district received a $300,000 grant to implement a Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources credit-trading program. Resource Technician Courtney Phillips said the district has a two-year timeline to expend the funds. She is in the process of putting together a request for proposals for credit consultants and engineers with the intention to awarding an engineer and consultant at the November meeting.

The board approved the 2019 administrative budget of $250,000.

Lakes Foundation President Brian Hensley reported the group has approximately 20 projects in the queue, but the biggest challenge is raising funds for those projects. He said the foundation is looking for people to take the lead on those projects. Their next meeting is at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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