Watershed district to request additional $7.5M from state for dredging

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Shell Rock River Watershed District board of managers is keeping an eye on the completion of its dredging project on Fountain Lake, approving a recommendation to request an additional $7.5 million in state bonding dollars.

Should the state double down on funds — it granted $7.5 million to the Watershed District in 2014 to be used for dredging — that money would be used for the third dredging contract. The request would allow dredging to continue from City Beach to the dam as well as limited dredging of Bancroft Bay, Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Henschel said.

Henschel said the district wants the bond request to be seen this year but is looking for it to be awarded at the 2020 legislative session.

Email newsletter signup

When the district initially pursued bonding dollars, Henschel said the project scope was a removal of roughly one million cubic yards of material. Now, after considering best management practices and deeper inlet areas, the end number looks closer to 1.7 million.

“We went above and beyond that original one million,” Henschel said.

Additionally, the between $7 and $8 price of sediment removal per cubic yard is higher than Henschel said the $5 per cubic yard district first assumed.

Watershed District board of managers treasurer Al Bakken said the initial discussion surrounding the dredging project, which is still in the first contract and has the necessary permits to move forward into the second contract as early as this fall, was that it would be a project larger than $7.5 million, and that the Watershed District and other entities would be doing in-kind participation.

By the time contracts one and two are complete up to 2021, Henschel said the district will have worked through all $7.5 million of the original bonding money as well as an estimated $9.5 million from the local option sales tax.

The Watershed District still has to acquire land for the fourth confined disposal facility cell, where sediment dredged from the lake is deposited, and work through permitting for contract three.

“Still have quite a bit of work to do, but if we want to have this be consecutive projects and start hopefully contract three, phase two in 2022, the dredge committee felt that we better start pursuing some dollars in that,” Henschel said.

Shell Rock River Watershed District board chairman Gary Pestorious said he considered a continuous effort the right way to go about a project that has the potential to last between 80 and 100 years.

“When you’re working on a project like that, you want to make sure you do it right,” Pestorious said. “In order to do this project right, we have to remove all that sediment.”

Year two of dredging is underway at Edgewater Bay as work on the first contract continues. JF Brennan, a dredging and marine construction company, began dredging two weeks ago. Water from the CDF began to discharge last Friday, Henschel said.

“Everything is going smoothly,” Henschel said.

The dredging is on schedule.

In other action:

• Henschel asked the dredge committee to consider reducing the asking price for the district’s dredge and pipe, which have not been sold through online auctions. The board also voted to extend the dredge storage lease on a month-by-month basis. The dredge is being stored for $250 a month at Albert Lea Diesel and Chrome.

• The Watershed District board approved a resolution that allows board managers to attend meetings electronically. As long as the board follows open meeting laws, managers who attend electronically will count toward the quorum and will be allowed to vote, Watershed District attorney Stephanie Haedt said.

• New job descriptions for the five staff at the Watershed District were approved to reflect duty realignment following a downsize last year. The district also approved a compensation plan, which Henschel said stems form a salary survey approved by the board in 2018. Following revised job descriptions, Henschel said the district wants pay to accurately reflect job duties and roles of district staff as well as align with comparable industry standards.

• The Watershed District board discussed collaborating with Freeborn County to assist in FEMA damage assessments, as well as some regular assessments, of county ditches. As of the board meeting, Henschel said the county and district are looking at one portion of Bancroft ditch.

“I think this will help both entities in being able to help identify maybe problem areas where we can look at future projects — both us and the ditch authority,” Henschel said.

• The Wasmoen wetland restoration project was the subject of a public hearing, and then its plans, establishment and easements necessary for the project were approved. The site is southwest of Pickerel Lake, and due to funding requirements on grants used to partially fund the project, the project must be completed by August 2020, Resource Technician Courtney Phillips said.

• Minnesota Board of Water, Soil Resources Targeted Watershed grant money is also to be used for a wetland project in the Wedge Creek subwatershed. The board approved services from Barr Engineering Co. for the project, which would involve habitat improvement, wetland restoration and flood mitigation.

• The board approved the district entering into an option agreement to purchase a property in a switch from original plans. Phillips said the district was originally pursuing another property when the owner passed away. The board chose to pursue another property of comparable size near the Iowa border. The property has a native stream the district is looking at doing restoration work on as well as planting some areas with native upland mixes.

• In keeping with past years, the board approved hiring a summer intern not to exceed $6,000. The intern helps with water monitoring and maintenance of district property, Henschel said.

• Lakes Foundation President Brian Hensley said the cleanup day, moved to May 4 due to weather, had over 70 volunteers. He also reported that Lakes Foundation committee meetings have been moved from the Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Watershed District office for space reasons. Meetings are at 4 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month.

Additionally, Hensley reminded the board of the upcoming Paddle Film Festival at 7 p.m. May 30 at the Marion Ross and Albert Lea Floats and Plays from 11 to 3 p.m. at Frank Hall Park.

• Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susie Petersen thanked the Watershed District and board for their help with the Governor’s Fishing Opener.

According to Henschel, the dredge committee was able to meet with Gov. Tim Walz Friday afternoon to discuss current and future projects.

“He was very, very excited to see the projects that we have done here,” Henschel said.

• The board approved a resolution to initiate in-lake habitat in Fountain Lake. Conservation Technician Scott Christenson said the project would add structure and habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates to use.


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

email author More by Sarah