Olmsted County pumps another $126,000 into dredging project

September 7, 2018

Lake Zumbro lies 12 miles north of Rochester, with the northern portion bordering Wabasha County and the southern potion bordering Olmsted County.

A split Olmsted County Board agreed Tuesday to dig a little deeper to help dredge Lake Zumbro.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to approve nearly $126,000 in added funding for the project, which was originally estimated to cost nearly $6.8 million.

“Let’s hope this brings this to a close,” Board Chairman Sheila Kiscaden said after joining commissioners Ken Brown, Mark Thein and Gregg Wright in supporting the added funding.

The commissioners had already approved spending $400,000 for the dredging, which will start next year,

The winning bid, however, was $2.1 million above expectations. The contractor, J.F. Brennan Co., worked with project staff to narrow the gap to an estimated $1.1 million, which was used to determine the extra $126,000 needed from the county.

Wabasha County also has agreed to add $31,000 to its $100,000 for the project, based on the latest funding gap, and Lake Zumbro Forever will add nearly $68,000 to its $216,000 commitment.

Tom Canan, senior assistant Olmsted County attorney, said that leaves Rochester Public Utilities, which is being asked to add nearly $367,000 to its $1.16 million pledge. The RPU board will discuss the funding during its next meeting, he said.

The remaining gap — $508,000, if RPU provides the requested funds — would need to come from local property assessments, which are already being levied to raise more than $1.6 million for the project.

Canan said further work is being done to reduce costs. While he said the gap could drop as low as $300,000 under the best circumstances, he said such expectations might not be realistic.

Either way, he said the county’s commitment of nearly $126,000 will stand to fill the funding gap and potentially increase the amount of work to be done.

Kiscaden noted the original project estimates sought to remove more sediment from the recreational lake, but Brown pointed out those estimates were more than eight years old and called for spending $10 million.

The work planned for next year has a lower budget and faces higher costs, he said.

“We will do what we can with the money available,” he said.

In addition to the $3.5 million in local funding pledged earlier, the state has committed $3.5 million to the project.

The county has also purchased 80 acres of farmland east of the lake, which will be used to dry the sediment pulled from the lake. Canan said the $400,000 committed to the land purchase can be seen as an investment, since the county will be able to sell the property after five years.

The next step in the process is a public hearing on the proposed property assessments. That hearing is set for Sept. 12.

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