4th year of dredging complete; district looks to secure funds for rest

Published 9:00 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

The fourth year of dredging on Fountain Lake concluded Tuesday with just under 300,000 cubic yards of sediment removed this year.

Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel said since the dredging began, dredging contractor J.F. Brennan Co. Inc. has removed 614,490 cubic yards of sediment during the second phase of the project, for a total of a little more than 1.26 million cubic yards since the dredging began.

Over the next three weeks, J.F. Brennan will remove the dredge pipeline and demobilize the barges and dredge from the lake.

“We’re excited with some of the results we’re seeing,” Henschel said of the progress of the dredging.

Aside from the reports of blue-green algae in the lake in the summer because of high temperatures and a lack of rainfall — which happened in several lakes throughout the state — the district saw good water quality in the spring, he said.

“What we have seen in the spring is a good signal to what we’re going to see in future years,” he said.

He said he is excited to push forward to lobby for the final funding to finish dredging the lake.

“That’s been our goal from day one,” he said. “We’re definitely not going to stop here. We need to just keep moving forward.”

The final phase of dredging is expected to cost $8.5 million, up from an original estimation of $7.5 million because of inflation and the cost to remobilize the equipment.

The last phase is expected to take two years once funding is received and is expected to remove another 600,000 cubic yards. 

Henschel said district leaders plan to sit down with local representatives before the start of the legislative session in January and discuss the potential for bonding funds to finish the project, as well as the timing.

If funds are awarded through the state bonding bill in 2022, it is likely the final phase of dredging would not begin until 2023. The project would have to go out for bids again through the best value process, he said. The district is also working with the city to keep some of the infrastructure in place to save money.

He said there is some additional room in the confined disposal facilities already in place for more sediment that they wouldn’t necessarily need to have the fourth one built prior to starting.

Once the final phase is complete, a little over 1.8 million cubic yards are expected to have been removed from the lake.

“Full speed ahead,” Henschel said. “We’re not going to quilt until we finish the project,” he said.