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Highway 84 bridge in Pine River opens, Dam work next

The summer long project is the first in a plan to remove and replace the dam in Pine River.

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The race might be shorter, but the sidewalks on either side of the new bridge, which opened Sept. 3, 2021, in Pine River may be a prime location to drop ducks for the annual race. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

After more than seven years of planning, the bridge over the Pine River in the city of Pine River has been replaced, marking the first half of a project to remove and replace the bridge and dam, which was declared obsolete after the state performed an audit of river crossings following the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in 2007 in Minneapolis.

The Pine River bridge reopened to automotive and foot traffic Friday, Sept. 3.

"Our first feasibility study was started in 2014," said Pine River's city engineer, Bryan Drown. "I know it's been talked about earlier than that."

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The race might be shorter, but the sidewalks on either side of the new bridge, which opened Sept. 3, 2021, in Pine River may be a prime location to drop ducks for the annual race. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

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The project took many years of planning because of a complicated web of jurisdictions that included the city, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other agencies. The bridge closed in June for the MnDOT project to replace the roadway over the historic Pine River dam.

The city is responsible for the dam replacement, which will begin in October.

"In the middle of September, we'll have our pre-construction conference," Drown said. "The contractor will lay out the schedule. They have indicated they'll be starting that work in mid-October."

The contract was recently awarded to Landwehr Construction, of St. Cloud.

One major hurdle for the project was funding for dam replacement. The city and some citizen groups pondered options for many years before the 2014 feasibility study. Then, reflection included options for possibly repairing the dam instead of replacing it, with some effort going into determining whether the dam could be converted back to producing hydro-electric.

That idea proved infeasible, and in 2014 a rock riffle dam design was revealed.

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This photo of the Crookston Rapids shows a completed version of a riffle dam. Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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The rock riffle dam includes large rock piles at several different heights, which provide a more natural path for water and fish to follow. These riffle designs are growing in popularity in part due to the return to a more natural flow, which allows fish to pass in both directions.

At first, the city wrestled with ways to pay for the project. But in 2018, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council awarded the city a grant worth more than $2 million to complete the project.

A more detailed construction schedule is unavailable at this time; however, Drown said more information will be available in the middle of the month, possibly including a construction completion estimate.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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