‘There’s going to be a lot of negotiations’: Watershed District working to get permit approved for final phase of dredging

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Shell Rock River Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel said he is still optimistic the final phase of dredging will begin in Fountain Lake in 2025 but noted it will all depend on getting the permit back from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Henschel said the DNR has not expressed questions about the district’s plans to dredge the east basin of the lake’s main bay, but said all of its comments have been about the extent of dredging on Bancroft Bay.

“There will be some back and forth with the DNR about that,” he said.

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The DNR has expressed its opinion of the habitat for Fountain Lake that’s in the bay, while the district disagrees and states it has been filling in with high levels of phosphorus over the years.

He said it is well known that Fountain Lake is on the state’s impaired waters list and said that designation will never be able to be taken care of unless they resolve the phosphorus issue in the bay. The district has extended its dredge cuts in the bay to try to remove more of the phosphorus load and has been looking at data from the last 25 years to support its proposal.

Henschel said the district hopes to have some meetings with landowners and said it will be important for residents to reach out to the DNR about the project.

“There’s going to be a lot of negotiations,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, he hopes the board will be able to award contracts in January with dredging to begin in the spring.

The final phase of dredging is in the works after the Legislature in 2023 approved $9 million in additional state bonding dollars for the project. This brings the total of state bonding funds for the dredging to $16.5 million.

The dredging in its first two phases removed about 1.26 million cubic yards of sediment.