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Future of Rapidan Dam still unclear

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 5:33 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2021 at 9:38 PM CST
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RAPIDAN, Minn. (KEYC) - A staple of the southern Minnesota landscape, the Rapidan Dam has been running on the Blue Earth River for over 100 years.

Today, that dam’s future is uncertain.

The structure is heavily damaged after a century of operation, and the dam is in dire need of repairs.

In March of 2019, the dam processed the second largest flood in its history of its operation.

That stress has hurt the structure’s usability, and that paired with the formation of an ice dam that flooded the power station in the winter of 2020, has Blue Earth County officials trying to decide what to do with the six story structure: make repairs, or remove the dam altogether.

“If we look at the repair feasibility report we’ve got the issues with the damaged steel tainter gaits that control the flow going over the dam. We’ve got the stability of the dam, we’ve got the strength of the downstream apron and the scour holes that were formed and how do you repair those,” Blue Earth County Public Works Director Ryan Thilges explained.

Repairing the dam would cost around $15 million, but tearing down the dam would be an even greater project.

“In the removal study we’ve got different characteristics. If you take the dam out, the dam is 85 feet tall. That’s a significant amount of slope that needs to be made back up, and returning the river channel,” Thilges continued.

Removing the dam would take upwards of ten years and cost around $82 million.

The price tag for removal is large, but it may be necessary.

The County’s Public Works Department says that the dam will have to go eventually, and removing it now would save years of repair and operational costs.

In Rapidan, Aaron Stuve, KEYC News Now.>

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