The dam bridge replacement project in Pine River is slated to start in May with a detour starting May 24 and lasting until September.

The plan is to install a bridge over the river angled farther south of the current location.

The detour, discussed at the Tuesday, April 13, Pine River City Council meeting, will close a portion of Trunk Highway 84 to vehicle traffic for the duration of the bridge replacement project. Part of the road will still be open to pedestrians.

While this is a detour for Minnesota Department of Transportation construction - not for the city's portion of the project - the city will take advantage of the MnDOT detour to relocate a water main. This way, the city will not need to start a detour earlier.

After the water main relocation, MnDOT's project to replace the bridge over the Norway Brook dam will commence.

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For the water main relocation, the city council accepted a low bid of $124,862.50 from Landwehr Construction. The funds will be reimbursable from the city's Lessard-Sams grant.

The entire project is being funded by a $2.231 million grant from the Lessard-Sams Heritage Council. The city received the grant while seeking a way to pay for replacement of the city's obsolete dam and bridge.

The need for repair or replacement became apparent many years ago when the state took inventory of aging dams and bridges following the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in 2007 in Minneapolis. The Pine River dam was identified in that inventory as obsolete and in need of replacement.

Since that time, the city and residents began seeking ways to repair the historic structure or replace it.

After several reports showed that returning to hydro-electric production would not be feasible, the city council decided the cost of repair would be unrealistic and in 2017 asked engineers to create a preliminary design for a rock riffle replacement, a design most agreeable to the three entities involved: the city of Pine River, MnDOT and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The three groups held jurisdiction over different parts of the dam, bridge and environmental areas.

The entanglement of the groups made planning difficult for some time, but eventually the plan included separation of the three by making the dam and bridge into separate structures. The rock riffle design also appeased the DNR because of its natural design and the ability to include a path for fish to traverse in both ways on the river.

The council also agreed to accept bids for the rock riffle dam project, which will not begin until MnDOT has completed at least part of the bridge relocation.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.