Xcel Energy has received the final permit it has needed to begin the removal of Minnesota Falls Dam, but it still looks as if the dam has a at least a few more weeks before it goes the way of the dinosaurs.
According to Xcel Energy Senior Environmental Analyst and Scientist Jim Bodensteiner, the utility received the last remaining permit it required from the Army Corps of Engineers the day before Thanksgiving and now only need await for the Corps and Minnesota DNR to sign off on the contractor’s (Rachel Contracting, of Minneapolis) plan for water control, which will be submitted to the two agencies next week.
“There’s still some paper work, but the official permits are in hand so that’s a big step,” he said.
Bodensteiner went on to say that any major work, including the removal of the stoplogs will not occur until the water control plan has been given the thumbs up. At that point, the four remaining stoplogs will be removed from the dam gates, lowering the river to its maximum so that construction equipment can begin necessary water control and sediment dredging that will allow for the removal and initial restoration process, all of which is expected to take about a month.
Bodensteiner said that Rachel Contracting representatives have assured Xcel that they will have no trouble working in the winter conditions. In fact, the timing may be considered somewhat ideal given that large rain events are not common in December and January.
When the day finally does arrive, Granite Falls Energy CEO Steve Christensen says that the ethanol plant will be ready.
“We’ve got all our permits in place and are ready to go,” said Christensen. “Once the dam is removed and we know where the channel is then we’re set up to relocate with intake with Rice Construction (the same contractor for the city’s new plant) to modify the intake structure.”
Christensen said that as long as the water flow remains heavy enough, the ethanol plant will continue to draw from the river, but as a contingency is all permitted to draw groundwater if need be.
As for the cost, Christensen said the final figures will depend on the extent in which the intake will need to be modified––and that, again, will not be known until the dam has been removed and the new river channel revealed.
Construction of the 600-foot-wide, 14.5 foot high Minnesota Falls Dam began in 1905.
A few years after construction, the dam would change hands when it was sold to a group of Montevideo businessmen who established the private enterprise, Montevideo Light and Power, which was bought, lock stock in barrel in 1924 by the company that would become Northern States Power Company, known today as Xcel Energy.
Page 2 of 2 - In 1961 the generation system was removed, but NSP continued to use the upstream reservoir for cooling water at the Minnesota Valley coal powered generation plant. When that plant was shuttered in 2004, Xcel Energy ceased to have a need of the dam. In 2010, the company informed the public of its intention for removal.
Removal of the dam is expected to cost $2 million, while repair estimates hovered around $6 million, although this figure includes 50 years of projected upkeep costs.
Xcel indicated a willingness to transfer ownership of the dam to a municipal or private entity, but efforts by the City of Granite Falls, GFE and a few other parties ultimately found repair costs to be unfeasible.