Crews make quick work of demolishing Chippewa River dam
MONTEVIDEO -- The biggest show of the year is now playing in Montevideo, but get there quick as its run will be short. In only eight days, workers with MACC Inc., of Montevideo have removed the Chippewa River dam that has stood since 1958 downstr...
MONTEVIDEO -- The biggest show of the year is now playing in Montevideo, but get there quick as its run will be short.
In only eight days, workers with MACC Inc., of Montevideo have removed the Chippewa River dam that has stood since 1958 downstream of Lagoon Park in Montevideo.
A steady procession of onlookers has snapped photos and watched as the years of accumulated sediment, and the concrete and rebar that comprised the 21-feet-high-by-120-feet-wide structure was removed.
By the end of the day Tuesday the workers had already constructed two of the six rock weirs that will replace the dam. MACC owner Dennis Larson said the crew hopes to have all six of the weirs constructed by week's end. The project had been expected to require a solid month of work.
"It's fun to be involved with the project here," said Larson as workers used heavy equipment to place the first of 160 different, four-to-six foot boulders into place to create the weirs. "It is going to be so cool. I can't wait to see the kayaks cruising through here," said Larson.
Each of the six weirs will drop the Chippewa River by approximately 7 inches. The series of steps will allow fish to once again migrate up the river. "What people don't realize is that fish migration is just as important here in the Midwest as on the West Coast," said Luther Aadland, a river ecologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Fergus Falls. The migration of fish upriver should greatly improve game fishing opportunities on the Chippewa River, he said.
And Larson's comment on seeing kayakers enjoying the river again should prove true as well. The weirs are designed to re-create the natural, elliptical shape of the channel and funnel the main energy and flow through the center. "It will look like a river again," said Chris Domeier with the Minnesota DNR's fisheries office in Ortonville.
Domeier helped spearhead the dam's removal, and has overseen similar projects on the Pomme de Terre River in Appleton and the Lac qui Parle River in Dawson.
Removing dams that no longer serve any purpose is about improving safety as much as it is about improving fishing and other recreational opportunities, according to Domeier and Aadland. Low-head dams such as the one removed here create hydraulic rollers that can capture those who accidentally fall into the waters below them. The Chippewa River dam was the site of the tragic drowning of three youths in 1975.
Memories of that tragedy were cited by Montevideo city council members when they initially approved the project. While most proposals to remove dams generally meet with some resistance by those who want to keep them, Domeier said the response in Montevideo has been largely favorable.
Funding by the DNR and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is making the work possible. MACC had offered the low bid of $244,014 for the major share of the work.
The project will also involve some shoreline restoration upstream of the site, including the rebuilding of a portion of the channel that changed course when the dam came down.
The project is also notable for the effort to recycle all of the material. All of the sediment that had accumulated behind the dam is being used by the City of Montevideo as the material to replace the streets that were removed from the neighboring Smith Addition as part of the city's flood mitigation efforts. The concrete that comprised the dam is being ground and will be recycled for road building; the rebar is being recycled by the local salvage yard.
The weirs are being constructed from 1,520 tons of class IV rip rap rock and 400 tons of smaller rocks used as chinking between the larger stones.