Earlier this month Granite Falls Economic Development Agency Director Justin Bentaas held a conference call between DNR officials and representatives of Denver, Colorado-based, McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, regarding a proposed whitewater wave installation at the site of Highway 212 Bridge underpass.

Earlier this month Granite Falls Economic Development Agency Director Justin Bentaas held a conference call between DNR officials and  representatives of Denver, Colorado-based, McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, regarding a proposed whitewater wave installation at the site of Highway 212 Bridge underpass.

On Monday, the City of Granite Falls received the final draft of a  McGlaughlin whitewater park reconnaissance study developed by John Anderson and Risa Shimoda recommending the Highway 212 whitewater wave feature as the potential Phase-I of a larger whitewater park and recreation area vision running from the Granite Falls Dam to Minnesota Falls.

“We conclude that the [Granite Falls] Dam site has excellent prospects for a whitewater bypass for both recreation and fish passage,” said the report. “The riverfront park fronting on the bypass could also support a canoe livery and outfitter. Its diverse recreation offerings would include quiet water paddling on the dam impoundment; inflatable kayaks, tubes and rafts on the whitewater bypass; and Minnesota River trips of varying lengths both upstream and downstream of Granite Falls.”

A whitewater park installation at the site of the Granite Falls Dam is viewed as the potential crown jewel of the whitewater recreation area, potentially featuring a  1,500 foot long fish bypass and whitewater recreation chute designed to suit both river eco-system and recreation interests––that could also potentially serve as a major economic draw to the area.

Cost of the dam bypass feature is expected to range in cost from $5 million to $10 million, whereas the Highway 212 feature would run an estimated $500,000 - 700,000. Both features are made possible the river’s rate of flow as well as elevation drop––which is approximately 17 feet at the site of the Granite Falls Dam and three feet at the Highway 212 underpass.

At present, the DNR fisheries division is moving forward with a plan to re-engineer the river bottom at the Highway 212 underpass, which was unnaturally altered during a late 19th century, eventually abandoned, effort to install a dam at the site by early town residents.

The planned DNR project would adjust existing river rock so as to better support fish and water craft passage at an estimated expense of $40,000.

According to Bentaas, the DNR believes the project would be executed by the close of the 2016, and that any future wave installation by the city at the site could simply replace the work. As to whether those dollars could be utilized as part of the more recreationally comprehensive whitewater wave installation, DNR officials said that recreational-based nature of the project prohibited such a contribution from the state.

Going forward Bentaas said the city is considering a number of avenues for potential community development that are only bolstered by recent announcements concerning Memorial Park’s designation as Regionally Significant as well as the relocation of the Pioneer Public Television. In addition, he said that any potential whitewater installation at the site of the Granite Falls dam would certainly involve the seeking of funds from sources beyond just the area community.

The Anderson and Shimoda report featured a series of five recommendations for the city to follow if it wishes to further the development of the recreation area. They are as follows:

1. Construct a whitewater wave in conjunction with DNR’s reconfiguring the Highway 212 weir (currently planned for spring, 2016).
2. Economic impact assessment of the project
3. Engineering feasibility with hydraulic analysis of two (or more) alternatives for a whitewater bypass
4. Continue pursuing land donation at the former Minnesota Falls dam site
5. Land purchase/donation on the east river bank adjacent to the Highway 212 wave.