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Dam gets done under the wire

Construction work on the new Mill Pond Dam in New London is expected to get done this week -- avoiding a potential work stoppage if the state government shuts down. The project was conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON -- A $2.6-million construction project to replace the Mill Pond Dam in New London won't be affected, for the most part, by a potential state government shutdown.

Construction crews were scrambling Tuesday to finish the Department of Natural Resources project by Thursday.

It's expected the road over the new dam will be open to traffic on Friday.

The city and DNR will conduct a final walk-through with contractors Thursday.

New London City Administrator Trudie Guptill said she expects there will be several punch list items that will have to be addressed, "but the project is substantially completed and we're very pleased with it."

Because it is a DNR-engineered and funded project, any work not completed by Thursday would stop during a state shutdown.

That includes the final wear course of asphalt, which wasn't scheduled to be applied for a couple weeks. That part of the project could be delayed in a shutdown, said Guptill.

The contract requires that the total project be completed by July 31. If a state shutdown happens and goes beyond that time, the contract would be re-negotiated, she said.

Contractors would have to "wait until state is back up and running" before that part of the project could be completed, said Guptill.

Although the DNR paid for the entire construction project to build a new dam and remove the old one, the city contributed about $55,000 for aesthetic aspects, including decorative painted rock walls.

Guptill said the city is pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the labyrinth weir, which replaced the simple arched dam on the Mill Pond.

A viewing deck at the top of the dam allows people to watch water flowering from the Mill Pond, which is park of the Middle Fork of the Crow River, into the dam and over cement weirs. An asphalt portage trail that leads to the base of the dam provides an interesting view as the water tumbles over the concrete pillars painted with faux rock.

"It's a nice place to sit and relax," said Guptill. "I hope people use it a lot."

The original dam was built in 1865. Significant modifications were made in the 1930s or 40s and repairs were made in the 1970s and 1990s.

Because of its substandard construction, concern that the dam could fail and cause downstream seepage, the DNR had it on its list of "high hazard" dams.

Funding for the project is coming from state bonds that were included in bonding bills from 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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