Dam project moves forward after permit, easement delays
By Anna Jauhola
The Hallock Dam project will finally move forward this fall when Houston Engineering, Thief River Falls, plans to put out bid requests.
Jeff Langan, engineer with Houston Engineering, appeared via telephone at the Hallock City Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 3 to discuss the project.
The city received a $2 million grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council in 2019 and began making plans to restore the fish habitat on the Two Rivers. The project will modify the existing dam to create a structure consisting of riprap, large boulders and rock arch rapids. Planning has been hampered by the DNR permitting process, flowage easement agreements, extreme wet conditions and flooding, and now by COVID-19.
“We have one parcel we weren’t able to get the flowage easement for,” Langan said. “It sounds like there are some potential negotiations to buy that or trade or something. In the end, before we award any contracts, we’re going to have to get that resolved.”
Despite that hiccup, Langan said Houston Engineering is ready to advertise for bids on the project in September so they are ready for council approval in October. He said once the easement is taken care of, the DNR should finalize the dam safety permitting required.
Should the project move forward as Langan proposed, no actual construction will take place until spring 2021. Between November and April, the chosen contractor will haul in rip rap, rock and other materials to stockpile, and prepare the site.
“When the water goes down in spring of 2021, I envision they’ll do all the downstream channel work from the existing dam plus doing all the spillway work, access paths and things like that,” Langan said.
By fall 2021, he hopes the contractor would remove the existing bridge and complete the new bridge in May 2022, with final cleanup expected to be done by June 2022. The Lessard-Sams grant money is available to the city through June of 2023.
While the basic plan has been set for a while, final funding remains an issue. The current estimated cost of the project is $2.4 million, about $400,000 over the money received from Lessard-Sams. Langan said they are having issues finding places to remove items within the project.
“So of course, it’s ‘Where are we going to get extra money?’” he said. “We have $205,000 in those rock riffles, those individual dams downstream of the rock fishway. And we’ve got a 10 percent contingency, which is $180,000.”
He said there is the possibility of the county highway department assisting with inspections, which would cut down on the number of trips Houston Engineering would make to Hallock.
If the project still requires more money, he hopes they can approach Minnesota Fisheries or other entities.
“I think we’re really going to have to find out where the bids come in before determining the next step (in funding),” Langan said. “(The bids) really control the whole project.”
He added he will likely include a 60-day period to keep the bids open and numbers active in case they need to search for more money because the bids won’t go any lower.
The council left the advertising of bids up to Houston Engineering and Langan requested to be left on the monthly council agenda to give updates as the bid process moves along.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a 2 percent increase in the city’s allocation to Northwest Regional Library, the organization which oversees the Hallock Public Library. The city was contributing $15,000 per year and that cost will go up to $15,300.
• Approved a resolution to accept a donation of $1,500 from Shirley Rydberg for beautification of public spaces.
• Approved a resolution to accept a donation of $465.03 from Wheelz Up Hallock, the group that organized the CanAd Bike Ride through Hallock in August 2019. The donation will pay for two bike racks, one for the library and one at the pool.
• Approved a recommendation from the personnel committee for a step increase for Caleb Pinnock, city employee, which raised his pay from $22.88 to $23.84.
• Approved a recommendation from the personnel committee for a pay increase for City Administrator Aimee Sugden after her six-month review. Her annual salary increased from $50,000 to $60,299 and is retroactive to May 9, which was her actual six-month anniversary in the position.
• Approved zoning permits for Sandra Froehler to build an accessibility ramp to her home, for Kevin Klein to build a fence to the rear of his home and for Kary Lindegard to build an addition to his home.
• Tabled a zoning permit request from Revelation Ale Works to place a glycol chiller unit in the alley right of way behind the brewery building in the 100 block of Second Avenue. The council hesitated to approve the request as concerns arose regarding the unit blocking traffic and impeding snow removal. The council said they would do more research and get legal advice to the placement before approving the request.