Watershed District Sets $1M Budget for Land Acquisitions

The Shell Rock River Watershed District is budgeting a significant amount of money for the Fountain Lake restoration project in its 2016 preliminary non-property tax budget.

The budget, which was approved Tuesday morning, includes $2.06 million for dredging elements, with $1 million specifically for Fountain Lake land pursuits.

The district is looking at building a confined disposal facility that will be used to manage contaminated sediments. A CDF is a dewatering site in the dredging process. When dredging takes place, there will be a mixture of water and sediment pumped to the disposal facility, and the CDF will be used to settle the sediment and siphon off the water.

An embankment will go around the perimeter of the CDF. The soil on the land that will be purchased will be used to build the embankment where the water and sedimentation will be stored.

The district knows they'll need at least 100 acres for the CDF, but they don't have an exact figure of how much acreage they'll need, according to Brett Behnke, district administrator. The district hopes to have the confined disposal facility location selected by this fall.

Once that is completed, the district will proceed with the engineering of the site and the permitting process. Behnke said the district hopes the engineering and permitting process will be completed by late spring or summer 2016.

The district's dredge will probably be used in some capacity in the dredging process, Behnke said.

Investigative work is being done right now in connection with the CDF project, and district officials are talking with landowners about a potential lease or purchase of property.

Behnke hopes construction on the CDF starts as soon as possible. The CDF will facilitate the dredging project and will be located within a close proximity to the lake. Behnke said the district is identifying potential sites with Natural Resource Technology, a dredging consultant the district has hired, and must consider pipelines, wetlands, floodplains and proximity to lake when looking at CDF sites.

The district hasn't received cost estimates of the CDF portion of the project. Behnke said the district wants the CDF to hold a million and a half yards of sedimentation. After the dredging is complete, the CDF is planned to be returned to agriculture land.

Other items included in the dredging elements budget include:

Administrative technician reimbursement: $115,400

Fountain Lake: $900,000, including contracting work and other work that needs to be done before the dredge hits the water

Equipment: $10,040

Miscellaneous, outreach: $8,500.

The amount is approximately one-third of the overall $6.328 million non-property tax budget. The budget will be finalized in December. The district uses a half-cent sales tax to fund projects. Behnke said the project is key to future water quality in Fountain Lake.

"There's a lot of local interest in that project," Behnke said. "It's one of the big pieces of the puzzle in fixing the water quality in that lake."

Behnke said the budgeted amount is close to what the district had allotted in the 2015 budget. The amount of money the district budgets for the dredging project in the future will depend on the request for proposals. During the request for proposal process, the dredging project layout for the next few years will be determined, he said.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007