A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the project that Minnesota DNR was undertaking in the Minnesota River just below the Highway 212 bridge. The river flows were too high to finish it up then but it was hoped that with some river lever adjustments upstream at Lac qui Parle, the project could be completed yet this year.

That river level adjustment worked and the flows, while still abnormally high for December, were low enough to permit the completion of the project.

The newly re-designed rapids that takes the place of an old wood cribbing and rock dam was finished up on December 15th. Some final survey work will be done next spring during warmer weather.

The old dam that had been in place at this location was built sometime before 1900 and was to provide water power for a proposed grist mill on the east bank of the river. There are conflicting passages in the local history books about the dam and a mill. Carl and Amy Narvestad’s A History of Yellow Medicine County mentions that the dam “was begun… but the mill never built”.

Other accounts would lead you to believe that a family named Fuller once owned the site and built a dam and a mill on the east bank of the river around 1872. After digging some more, I’m convinced that the mill was never built and the dam was only partially completed, probably in the late 1880s. That partially built dam was submerged in 1905 when the newly built Minnesota Falls dam was built nearly three miles downstream.

In 1930 and 1931, the construction of Highway 212 mandated blasting through rock outcroppings and grading along the south boundary of Granite Falls. That new route featured what would be the city’s second location of a vehicle bridge. Prior to that, the only vehicle bridge had been the bridge connecting east Granite with the larger west side of the city on Oak Street. When a new bridge was built at that location in 1911, it become known as the Wagon Bridge and with automobiles and trucks quickly becoming larger, the bridge almost immediately was judged to be too narrow and was soon restricted to one lane of traffic crossing the bridge at a time which mandated that motorists frequently had to wait for a car or truck traveling in the opposite direction to cross the bridge and the clear the way.

Presumably the engineers that designed the Highway 212 bridge in 1930 and the bridge that replaced it in the mid-1980s were well aware of the old dam, just downstream on the river bed. The west abutment of the bridge is close to the west end of the old dam, which was allowing some of the river’s flow to shoot against the west bank of the river and caused some concern about ongoing erosion and its effect on the bridge abutment. With the recently completed project, the old dam has now been made into a better fish habitat and also into a safer passageway for canoers and kayakers while protecting the west bank of the river from those erosion issues.

We can’t mention the river without again giving a warning to stay off the river ice and the ice on small streams and creeks and streams. The cold weather this week has certainly changed ice conditions but it will take more time for that ice to be thick enough in many places to be able to support a person or a small vehicle.

It was disappointing to see Tillie’s Restaurant shut its doors earlier this month. It’s never good to see a small town business close but nobody should be expected to run a business that they want out of. Still, it is a loss for the community.

The nicely designed restaurant building came into being as the Crown Dining Centre in the mid-1960s and immediately became a gathering place. After several years, the restaurant went through some name changes and was known as the Prairie House, The Copper Kettle, DeToy’s and most recently Tillie’s. Despite having a highly visible location along a busy highway, the restaurant has closed before but thankfully, it reopened. No such fate seems to be in the works this time. The restaurant has played an important role in community life and that now appears to be lost. We hope that another full-service restaurant will see the opportunity for a breakfast, coffee and noon lunch operation.

Each year, toward the end of December, county boards all around Minnesota consider salary adjustments for the county’s elected and appointed officials. At the same time, those county commissioners also consider their own pay and they often, but not always give themselves a raise. On a split vote, with Commissioner John Berends voting no, the Yellow Medicine County Commissioners voted to give themselves pay raises and the Chippewa County board did so, too. Meanwhile, the commissioners in Lyon County and Kandiyohi County decided, once again, to not give themselves a raise.

I will never dispute that public officials deserve to be paid. It can be very time consuming, hard work. However, I think it’s only fair to the public that those salary adjustments, however well-deserved they may be, should not take place until after the next general election. While city councils are free to set their own salaries nearly every city in Minnesota is required by state statute to wait for those raises go into effect until after the next general election. The legislature has to live under those rules as well. The same should apply to Minnesota’s county boards. 

Our sincere wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all the good readers out there. Let’s work to make 2018 an enjoyable year to remember.