By Louis Hoglund

Dirt and rock were poured into sinkholes by the Pelican dam last week, filling deep pits caused by high water.

Erosion in the extreme opened up deep “sinkholes” at the Pelican River damsite in Pelican Rapids. 

City crews have been on “dam duty” for more than two weeks, as the high waters of 2022 have poured into the aging dam, and the nearby culverts. The force of the water washed out surfaces by the dam and the block structure to the south of the dam. 

Planks that were removed last year, to draw down the pond in anticipation of the Pelican dam removal, have now been put back into place. 

The planks, a dozen total, were reinstalled to force the water back over the dam rather than through the culverts, explained city public works superintendent Brian Olson.

More than a dozen loads of stone and dirt were hauled in and deposited south of the dam to fill the immense pair of sinkholes that appeared as the soil embankments eroded into the river. 

The north sinkhole has been filled and effectively holding back water, reported Olson. The south sinkhole has been another matter. 

In an effort to divert water from the erosion on the south side of the dam, Pelican city workers recently returned planks that had been removed to draw down the pond last fall. The planks were intended to send water back over the dam, which had been reduced to a trickle—until the heavy snows and wet spring.
The culverts are visible as the force of water eroded the embankment south of the dam.

“Whatever we’ve tried to put down there just washes out,” said Olson, because of the force of the water. 

Work continued this week, and Egge Construction was expected to bring in some different rock and stone materials in an effort to bank up the sinkhole on the south side of the block building. 

The area has been roped off with yellow caution ribbon, to keep the public away from the steep, eroding pits.

The Mill Pond behind the dam was drawn down last fall, in anticipation of the dam removal and river restoration project that had been scheduled for winter 2022. However, delays in design specifications and bid preparation have delayed the project until 2023.