The city of River Falls common council recently voted unanimously to proceed with a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the possibility of federal assistance removing dams on the Kinnickinnic River.
At its Nov. 9 meeting, the council approved a resolution to work with the federal government on a feasibility study. The study would let the Army Corps analyze if it makes sense for the agency to help with the dam removal project.
City administrator Scott Simpson, who has met with the Army Corps several times, said the study will likely examine several options, including no federal involvement, removing just one dam, and removing both. But removing both and fully restoring the river corridor seems most likely to convince the Corps to dedicate its resources to the project.
“They have been up front with us, from a staff perspective, that the most likely scenario to obtain federal interest in project is removal of both dams,” Simpson said.
The city has previously approved removing both dams in River Falls — eventually. The lower Powell Falls Dam was damaged by flooding recently and its timeline for removal accelerated, but the upper Junction Falls Dam would not be removed for more than 10 years, according to the city’s current plans. If the Army Corps gets involved, it could mean removing both dams within the decade.
“I think this feels like the final leg of the beginning of the end,” said council member Nick Carow.
The feasibility study is expected to cost up to $750,000. The Army Corps of Engineers will pay for the first $100,000 and half of all additional costs. The Kinni Corridor Collaborative has pledged to cover half the city’s cost. If the study leads to dam removal, the Army Corps could cover up to 65 percent of project costs.