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Preliminary concepts revealed for Pine River Dam work

One option discussed for the Pine River Dam was a rock riffle design which would allow for fish migration. This option is more cost effective than some, but does not allow for much control of water flow, however, raised barriers in key locations would limit how far water levels could drop in Norway Lake. Submitted photo1 / 2
This concept design for work to be done at the Pine River Dam shows MNDot's alterations to the highway as it crosses the Pine River in town. It also shows a fishway which would allow fish to migrate through the river. Submitted photo2 / 2

An audience at the Pine River Depot recently got a first look at plans for the future rehabilitation, replacement or removal of the dam in downtown Pine River.

Mike Rardin, senior project manager with Bolton & Menk Inc. engineering company, led the presentation of the various options for the dam. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), who owns the bridge above the dam, would like to relocate the bridge south of its current location, somewhat straightening the corner the dam is on.

In the meantime, the dam, which is owned by the city of Pine River, was inspected and found to be deteriorating. Rardin said the last rehabilitation of the dam took place in the 1980s, but the dam has deteriorated considerably since then and must be repaired or replaced.

"'Do nothing' is not going to be an option. The city is going to have to do something," Rardin said.

The purpose of the meeting was for stakeholders to view the dam evaluation, learn about the options for rehabilitation or replacement, examine the impacts of any changes and consider the concerns and funding for the project.

"That's what's being considered right now. There is no definite project on the table, although we expect at some point there probably will be," Rardin said.

Various options for the dam have price tags running from $250,000 for removal or repair of the existing dam to $2 million for the construction of a new dam with three sluice gates.

In addition to price, Rardin discussed the fluctuation of water levels in Norway Lake, lifespan of potential dam options, increasing water capacity of all the options and annual operation cost. Fish migration through the river was also an important consideration.

"The DNR (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) would also like to allow for fish migration. Right now the dam acts as a barrier, and statewide they have been trying to do this," Rardin said.

Rardin also said the Crosslake Dam on the Pine River is a barrier to fish migration.

Simple removal of the dam was mentioned; it is not a popular course of action, however, since it would drain Norway Lake. One unique option the Pine River City Council discussed in the past has been removal of the dam and construction of an arrangement of rocks and barriers that water and fish can flow through when water levels are normal.

Called a "rock riffle weir dam," this would run the city $1 million. During low water levels, high stationary barriers in this type of dam prevent water in the lake from dropping below a certain level. During those times, water would simply stop flowing until water levels rise again. Water would be static and not adjustable.

Other options discussed included dam designs with varying numbers and styles of gates. Each design has its advantages and drawbacks, and the city will look for feedback from concerned individuals. Many designs do have the possibility of increasing fish migration. In all of the proposed designs, State Highway 2 would still cross the river in roughly the same area.

Fish migration was discussed at length. One attendee said fish would migrate out of area lakes and toward the south. He also suggested installation of a rock riffle weir dam would actually drain the lake.

DNR representatives disagreed with these assertions.

Pine River resident Curtiss Krantz literally applauded the inclusion of fish migration pathways.

Overall, no decisions have been made on this project. Construction could begin in 2016. Since the city of Pine River owns the dam, it will be responsible for making decisions about the dam and paying at least part of the costs for work done.

However, feedback is being sought from individuals living outside the city, but in areas that could be impacted by changes to the dam.

Meeting participants were asked to fill out comment cards. Rardin also said the city will look at receiving feedback on the options and funding sources. To view notes and images from the presentation, visit