The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded Xcel Energy a permit to demolish the 107-year-old Minnesota Falls Dam on the Minnesota River southeast of Granite Falls. Xcel's Jim Bodensteiner says they received the permit last week, and the contractor is finishing up plans and paperwork.
Before work can begin, water will need to be drawn down from behind the dam to allow access. The water will then be lowered further by digging a ditch. Then, deconstruction on the 600-foot-long concrete structure that creates a 10-foot waterfall.
The dam is being removed, in part, because it creates a safety hazard. In August of 2011 a worker clearing debris from the dam fell in and drowned. The dam hasn't generated electricity since 1961, and hasn't been used to cool the nearby coal-powered Xcel Minnesota Valley Generating Plant since it closed in 2006.
Xcel offered to sell the dam, but no businesses or local governments decided the investment was worth it, which was a disappointment to the nearby Granite Falls Ethanol Plant wanted to keep the dam because they use water from the pool above the dam for cooling, and the Granite Falls Golf Course used water for sprinkling.
Environmental groups like Montevideo-based CURE applaud the dam removal, saying it will improve the river for canoeing and kayaking. An update released from CURE says the organization is focusing on the positive changes, and they have recently posted a video on Youtube in which Rebecca Wodder of the Department of the Interior discusses the benefits.