I would like to offer the following details in order to clarify your Dec. 18 editorial regarding Windom's dam.
You claim, "the dam did not fail in 2007, the river bank just east of the dam crumbled." Any good engineer will assert that this "riverbank" is an integral part of the dam structure. Dam construction techniques demand proper design and supervision during the dam construction, including any berms, dikes, or embankments adjacent to a dam. Otherwise, another failure is imminent.
You question the need for "fish passage." This would require that we ignore progress in understanding river ecology since the 1985 dam modification plan. The DNR cannot make decisions today the same as three, four, or even five decades ago. In order to assist the City of Windom through this complicated and potentially expensive endeavor, the DNR has already paid for half of the cost of the independent dam feasibility study; while also pledging another $100,000 for stream restoration and fish passage.
A half-million dollars for stream bank protection in the dam-removal option is a lot of money. Only small segments of the shore appear to require further review or possible reinforcement protection. I will not approve any frivolous rip rap or stabilization plans that do not have a demonstrated need or erosion problem. However, the cost for riverbank projects should not solely be at the expense of the City. Riverbank and riparian landowners should also bear fiscal responsibility for protecting their own shoreline area (with or without a dam in place).
The DNR and Cottonwood SWCD have several cost-share assistance programs for these types of projects.
I support any plan for a low-cost project. However, local and national economic fluctuations cannot compel the DNR to "lower the bar" when it comes to dam safety. The "drowning-machine" or hydraulic roller must be fixed or eliminated. No permit will be issued to the City of Windom if this is not addressed. The "band-aid" type of approach has failed repeatedly; we must pursue a long-term solution.
I encourage the City to fully pursue other grant-funding opportunities for this project. I agree that some folks do have an interest in replacing the dam, but ultimately at what cost? Benefitting whom? And, more importantly, what is the fundamental purpose to be achieved? The sediment will continue to flow with the river, and reservoir dredging will not be permitted until the sediment delivery problem from the watershed is solved.