Dam demolition placed on hold

Citing historic group’s concerns, Army Corps of Engineers unexpectedly pulls permission to take out venerable FD structures

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday blocked a plan to remove the Hydroelectric Dam that spans the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge.

Plans for removing the two dams that span the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge were abruptly stopped — at least temporarily — late Monday afternoon a little more than an hour before the City Council was to award contracts for the project.

A consulting engineer hired by the city received a phone call from a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 4:30 p.m. Monday, informing him that permits for removing the Hydroelectric Dam and what’s commonly called the Little Dam would not be issued because the State Historic Preservation Office has concerns about the proposal.

The engineer, Wade Greiman of Snyder & Associates, of Ankeny, told the City Council Monday that he and city staffers will meet with the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Historic Preservation Office later this week.

“We’ll know a lot more at the end of this week,” he said.

After the council meeting, Greiman said he believes the preservation office is looking for “alternatives to the partial removal of the Hydro Dam.”

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Frigid water tumbles over the spillway at what’s commonly called the Little Dam in Fort Dodge Monday afternoon. A plan to remove the dam has been put on hold.

He said there have been some previous correspondence with the preservation office through the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the plan to remove the dams. He added that the historic preservation office is “still not satisfied.”

There has been no indication that the preservation office has any concerns about the removal of the Little Dam, but Greiman said the Army Corps of Engineers is declining to issue a permit for its removal until the issue regarding the Hydroelectric Dam is resolved.

During Monday’s meeting, the City Council was scheduled to award contracts for removing the dams.

The low bidder for both jobs was Rachel Contracting Inc., of St. Michael, Minnesota. That company offered a price of $274,784 to remove the Little Dam and $1,186,302.86 for removing the Hydroelectric Dam.

“They came in considerably lower than our estimates,” Greiman told the council.

He described Rachel Contracting as “extremely reputable.”

According to Greiman, the company’s bids are good for 60 days. That means the City Council could still hire the company to do the work at those prices if the concerns with the State Historic Preservation Office can be resolved quickly.

The plan called for demolition work on both dams to start on Dec. 19. The Little Dam was to be removed by Nov. 30, 2019, while the Hydroelectric Dam was to be removed by Dec. 31, 2019.

Rachel Contracting Inc. was not the only bidder for the work.

Other bidders for the Little Dam removal were Rasch Construction Inc., Fort Dodge, $440,817; Firstmark Construction, Bozeman, Montana, $483,609.60; Richards Construction, Sac City, $490,900.60; Crow River Construction, New London, Minnesota, $560,200; Engineering & Construction Innovation, Oakdale, Minnesota, $744,945; and Peterson Contractors Inc., Reinbeck, $810,162.60.

Other bidders for the Hydroelectric Dam removal were Firstmark Construction, $1, 615, 300; Crow River Construction, $1,661,371; Newt Marine Service, Dubuque, $1,698,116; and Peterson Contractors Inc., $1,898,374.50.

The fate of the dams, especially the Hydroelectric Dam, has been debated for at least 20 years. A 2016 master plan for the Des Moines River in Webster County called for both of them to be removed.