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Latest floods took toll on historic bridges in Lagoon Park

This is a view of the Chippewa River dam in Montevideo during better times. The dam suffered considerable damage during the latest flood. The city and state are looking at removing it. Tribune file photo

MONTEVIDEO -- Four significant flood events in the last 13 years have taken their toll on the historic bridges and decorative rock riprap walls in Montevideo's Lagoon Park, as well as the nearby dam on the Chippewa River.

Montevideo City Council members on Monday toured the park and dam and discussed what to do about what appears to be significant damage to all of the structures, reported City Manager Steve Jones.

Some of the damage to the stone bridges and decorative walls may not be readily apparent, but close inspection shows significant issues, he said.

The structures were built as part of a Works Progress Administration project, most likely in the later 1930s, he said.

The bridges, walls and dam on the Chippewa River suffered considerable damage in the flooding this year, he said.

Council members are looking at options to possibly repair the historic structures, but are concerned about the potential costs.

They are hoping that flood mitigation funds can be secured for the dam, and that those funds can then be applied toward its removal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the city have been looking to remove the structure, believed to have been erected in the 1950s.

The dam no longer provides any appreciable water storage benefits. Its condition prevents the placement of flash boards on it, and the pool above it is now filled with silt.

Like all low-head dams, it also poses a safety risk due to the rolling current it creates below it. It was the site of three drowning deaths in 1975.

The dam also harms the Chippewa River fishery by stopping natural fish migration.

In a related matter at the meeting Monday, council members learned that bids could be opened next week for Phase II work on the levee improvement project. This year's work will involve raising and building the U.S. Highway 212 levee.

It is part of an estimated $15 million being invested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state of Minnesota, and the city of Montevideo to upgrade the city's flood defenses.

Also Monday, council members approved a conditional re-issuance of the liquor license for the American Legion Club. The conditional re-issuance is due to the fact that council members are undertaking a comprehensive review of the city's ordinances regarding liquor establishments.

The Legion's license will be subject to any new conditions the council may adopt.

Council members also noted that they will need to revise a zoning regulation preventing liquor sales within 300 feet of a school in areas outside of the downtown area. It was learned that the Minnesota Valley alternative high school is located 262 feet from the Legion.

The school was opened in a vacant business building some years after the Legion began its operations.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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