Iconic dam; giant, deteriorating Pelican to remain in place until 2023
By Louis Hoglund
The river restoration project has been delayed by a full year, which means the Pelican Rapids dam removal and upstream dredging will not begin until fall 2022 to winter-spring 2023.
The timeline on the project has been revised several times, for a number of reasons. As recently as March 18, there was a possibility that the project would be up for bid and initial work underway by May.
“There were too many issues remaining,” said engineer Rick St. Germain, of Houston Engineering. Among them: Moving the famous, giant Pelican Pete statue—which needs extensive preservation work before it is moved to a new permanent site, on the opposite side of the river.
“The entire project will be bid in the fall (2022) and completed in 2023,” said Brian Olson, Pelican city facilities superintendent.
Other factors contributing to the full-year delay were the testing and final location for depositing the soil from the dredged areas. Some 14,000 cubic yards will be removed for the river restoration, and it is standard operating procedure to test the soil for contaminants, such as ag chemical deposits.
Fortunately, the material was determined “clean,” and the city was permitted to spread it on city land, near the wastewater treatment plant.
“It will cover 15 acres, at about six inches deep…very fertile top soil,” said St. Germain.
Famous Pelican statue becoming a key aspect of dam project
Poor Pelican Pete, tired and worn with large gaps in his coat, has become a more serious consideration in the dam project.
A state historical preservation agency is now involved, said St. Germain.
It seems Pelican Pete is not only our icon—but is historically significant statewide.
“One of our tasks is to put together a plan that satisfies those historical preservation interests,” said St. Germain.
Under the current terms of the river restoration, the DNR will pay for the movement and return of Pelican Pete. But the city will be responsible for the renovation of the pelican statue.
“We will probably need to get a specialist on board, maybe a private contractor, with expertise on renovating it and relocating it,” said St. Germain. The objective would be to move it off site to repair and renovate during the winter, and relocate it next spring-summer in a finished condition, he said.
Stormwater plans will capture flow into Pelican River
Stormwater flow is another issue, which also relates to the extensive MnDOT Highway 59-108 reconstruction. Presently, untreated stormwater is emptying directly into the river—which will be collected and treated as part of the highway stormwater plan. Because of the stormwater planning, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is also indirectly involved in the dam project.
The heavy equipment and dredging work is typically scheduled after the ground is frozen, to minimize impact on the surface—so that also pushes the project to next winter. The concerns are not only disruption of riverside terrain, but city streets, noted Don Solga, city administrator.
“We want to do this during freeze-up, because the heavy equipment and heavy loads could bust up the streets,” said Solga; and winter is the best time for blacktop and pavement to withstand the movement of equipment.
Abutments for future walkway in project
The city will see an additional benefit of about $200,000, courtesy of the DNR, noted Howard Fulhart, fisheries official, Fergus Falls DNR office.
Abutments for a new walkway across the removed dam location will be designed and figured right into the project, said Fulhart. Also considered in the design are footings for walkways and other features around the dam.
“That’s huge for the city. The state will cover the cost of the abutments, and the city will be responsible only for the bridge itself,” said Fulhart.
The Environmental Assessment Worksheet was completed late last year, and the DNR determined there was no need for a more extensive Environmental Impact Statement—so the dam removal and river restoration doesn’t face serious environmental challenges.
Some tree removal is anticipated with the project.
There will be Americans With Disabilities Act features included in the project, enabling access to the riverside for the handicapped.