River Falls commissions recommend keeping Kinnickinnic River dams for now

Years of debate over the future of the dams results in recommendation for future removal, comes down to city council vote on Feb. 27.




3 minute read

Junction Falls Dam, just below the Winter Street Bridge. (Photo courtesy Kinni Corridor Project Committee)

Two River Falls city committees have recommended retaining two hydroelectric dams on the Kinnickinnic River for the time being.

The dams on one of the St. Croix River’s most famous tributaries have been the subject of more than four years of discussion in the community. The recommendations next go to the city council for a final vote on Feb. 27.

On Jan. 15, the Municipal Utilities Board recommended renewing the federal license for one of the dams and surrendering the license for the other dam, with removal possible “sometime in the future.”

On Jan. 25, the Kinni Corridor Project Committee, a special committee leading the the dam decision-making process, issued a final report (PDF) on its work and passed a revised version of the recommendation. The committee recommended the city council vote to remove the Powell Falls (lower) dam by 2026 and retaining the Junction Falls (upper) dam for another 22-30 years.

Remove and restore

Powell Dam (Photo courtesy Kinni Corridor Project Committee)

Some river advocates have been advocating for the removal of both dams as a means of restoring the treasured trout stream, revealing long-hidden falls, and improving a valuable asset for the city’s downtown area.

Local organizations Friends of the Kinni and the Kinnickinic River Land Trust, as well as the St. Croix River Association, the Kiap-TU-Wish Trout Unlimited chapter, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, and other groups all expressed support for removing the dams.

Friends of the Kinni is urging the city council to overrule the recommendations and remove the dams now. The group is seeking signatures on a petition calling for the immediate cancellation of the federal license, and a plan to remove the dams as soon as possible. Read more and sign the pro-removal petition here »

Watch and learn

Concept plan map courtesy Friends of the Kinni.

The Kinni Corridor Project Committee examined the dam removal options in the context of a larger planning and engagement process. They developed concepts of how River Falls could bring back its eponymous falls and open up the river for recreation.

One key aspect of the corridor committee’s recommendation is that removal of the lower dam be carefully studied to understand the costs and benefits, to inform the future removal of the upper dam.

The committee also called for a faster removal of the upper dam if ecological conditions degrade unexpectedly.

Learn more about the Kinni Corridor Project Committee on its website, and download its final report here (PDF).

City council actions

The River Falls City Council will receive the recommendations tomorrow (Feb. 13) and will vote on the issue in two weeks:

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018
6:30 – 8 p.m.
River Falls City Hall
222 N Lewis Street, River Falls, WI 54022

Video: Take a trip down the river

Travel from the headwaters to the St. Croix in this video produced by the City of River Falls:


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River Falls commissions recommend keeping Kinnickinnic River dams for now