Note the flow over the dam, which is a trickle by normal standards.
This photo of the low water of the Pelican River was submitted by Richard Peterson. “What’s left of the river, taken behind Trinity Lutheran Church from the north side of the river,” wrote Peterson.

The Pelican Rapids city dam is expected to be reduced to a trickle by August 31. 

“As low as we can go” by the end of August is the plan, reported Brian Olson, public works superintendent, at the Aug. 10 Pelican Rapids City Council meeting. 

Lowering Mill Pond will set the stage for the river restoration project, which will include removal of most of the dam structure. Heavy equipment is not expected to mobilize along the river until the shoreline hardens in late fall. 

“We’re trying to avoid drawing down the pond too fast, to avoid odor,” said Pelican City administrator Don Solga, noting that a more rapid exposure of shoreline during the drawdown four years produced odor as large swaths of shoreland was exposed. 

Slower process allows a steady drying of exposed shoreland, reducing odor. 

Mother Nature is helping in this process. The drought conditions have been slowly exposing shoreline for the past two months. 

City officials continue to try to dissuade some Prairie Lake residents that the drawdown will impact lake levels at Prairie. When the dam was drawn down four years ago, there was no impact on Prairie Lake levels, noted Solga. 

The dry conditions are affecting lake levels throughout the area. Kevin Ballard noted that some have estimated Lake Lida is dropping an inch a week. 

In other updates about the dam project: 

• Exposed shoreline could expand riverside lots as the river’s course alters from the dam project. Property ownership is largely a matter of the original abstract, some of which are based on the “normal” waters edge—and some on a footage basis. These issues will largely be a matter between the individual property owner and the DNR. 

• The city took steps to apply for bonding money to replace the pedestrian walkover, which will be removed with the dam demolition. Solga said that the application for legislative bonding money is being submitted early, based on the DNR’s prior indications that a replacement bridge would not part of the river restoration funding. 

Dam modification or removal projects, where possible, have been a focus of state and federal conservation officials in recent years. 

On the Pelican River, several dams have been the subject of “river restoration” projects — aimed at providing more natural flow and improving aquatic species habitat and spawning areas.  

With the removal of the dam southwest of Detroit Lakes, and a privately-owned dam near Elizabeth, the Pelican River would flow freely from Detroit Lakes all the way to Fergus Falls.