Willow River dam to be discussed at Dec. 6 public open house

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the city of Willow River will host a public open house on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 to discuss options for the Willow River dam which was severely damaged during a July 2016 rain storm.

The open house will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Willow River School located at 8142 Pine Street, Willow River, Minn.

Participants can visit displays during the first hour of the open house to learn more about three options currently being considered.  At 7:30 p.m. DNR staff will make a presentation about the features, benefits and cost of each option and answer questions about next steps.

The meeting purpose is to receive public input about the options and to answer questions about the state’s process.

The dam was built in 1940 as a cooperative venture between the Works Progress Administration and the then Department of Conservation. Heavy rains from a July 2016 thunderstorm overwhelmed the capacity of the dam and caused a significant breach of the north embankment. Options include replacement of the dam to meet current safety standards, removal of the dam, or restoration of the river channel with a series of rock weirs, or rock rapids, to retain water levels but to allow passage of small craft as well as the movement of fish.

“We have a rare opportunity to reimagine how this stretch of river might function and look like in the future,” said project manager Jason Boyle. “We look forward to hearing from area residents and moving the project forward.”