Watershed District approves engineering contract for final phase of Fountain Lake dredging

Published 6:30 am Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers on Tuesday approved a contract with Geosyntec Consultants Inc. for design and permitting services tied to the final phase of dredging on Fountain Lake. Firm ISG will support Geosyntec in the work.

The contract is for almost $596,000 and includes things such as data collection, land assessments, concept drawings, evaluation of the confined disposal facility, engineering design, development of the environmental assessment worksheet, all permitting, construction administration, bid support and project management.

The firm will set up weekly meetings with staff to provide updates, as well as multiple meetings with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies for the permitting, said Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel.

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Henschel said they will begin doing things they can locally right away, and the district hopes to have permits in hand sometime in mid to late 2024 so the project can go out for bids at the end of 2024. If permits meet this timeline, the district could potentially hire a contractor in late 2024 or early 2025 with plans to start dredging in early 2025.

Active dredging on Fountain Lake began in 2018. The first two phases were funded by an initial $7.5 million in bonding appropriation and $9.5 million in local option sales tax funds. The Legislature in the last session approved an additional $9 million for the remainder.

The final phase of the project includes the east basin of the main bay up to the Fountain Lake dam, Bancroft Channel and parts of Bancroft Bay. Costs are higher than initially anticipated for this portion because the dredge had to be removed from the lake because the funding was not available at that time.

Henschel said the biggest concerns previously from the DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control previously were with Bancroft Bay. The district and the consultants will start working on getting a more in-depth look at the bay and conduct additional borings to have all the facts before entering the permit phase.

He said the watershed district will post weekly or biweekly updates to keep everyone informed as the process moves forward.

In a presentation to the Albert Lea City Council on Monday, Henschel said the remaining dredging is expected to remove an additional 600,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lake.