Committee stops in Anoka on state tour of bonding project requests

The Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee made a number of stops in the north metro Sept. 17 as the group heard pitches for projects local governments hope to have included in the Legislature’s 2014 bonding bill.

In Anoka, the city is asking for $5 million for upgrades to the Rum River Dam, which would make it a redundant barrier to Asian carp and other invasive species.

Russ Zastrow of the city of Anoka shows members of the House Capital Investment Committee the workings of the Rum River Dam. Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming
Russ Zastrow of the city of Anoka shows members of the House Capital Investment Committee the workings of the Rum River Dam. Photo by Mandy Moran Froemming

The Rum River Dam is the last line of defense before the carp could enter the waterways and invade Lake Mille Lacs.

Minnesota’s sport fishing industry generates $2.8 billion annually, City Manager Tim Cruikshank told the committee.

The Rum River Dam was built in 1853, originally to power a sawmill. In 1935 the city of Anoka took ownership of it from the Pillsbury Milling Company.

The most recent upgrades were done by the city in 1969, Cruikshank said.

Upgrades to the dam would allow for a larger difference between the lower and upper pools during high water times, preventing Asian carp from jumping the dam to swim upstream toward Lake Mille Lacs.

During higher flow conditions those two water levels get close together, said Bill Holman of Stanley Consultants, the firm hired to do design work on the dam upgrades.

“There are a lot of people working together to stop and slow (invasive species),” he told the committee. “Nothing is 100 percent. There is always a risk something could get by these other systems put in place.”

Holman said once the Asian carp show up in the area, it’s too late.

Work is also underway on a $17 million upgrade to the Coon Rapids Dam, which will also make it a barrier for invasive species, including the Asian carp.

This project was funded in the Legislature’s 2011 bonding bill.

The Rum River Dam project has support from both the Lower and Upper Rum River watershed management organizations, as well as several counties between Anoka and Mille Lacs.

“This is a city dam and a city project, but it’s benefits go all the way to Lake Mille Lacs,” said Jamie Schurbon of the Anoka Conservation District.

Earlier in the day the committee spent time at Blaine’s National Sports Center where it heard about the facility’s desire for $3.95 million in state funding to expand 20 playing fields on the site, as well as $495,000 for upgrades to the 20-year-old facility.

Anoka County, working in conjunction with Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Ramsey, is requesting $17 million in state bonding to construct an interchange at the intersection of Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard. The project has been studied and discussed since 2002 and would separate the current railroad crossing from vehicle traffic. Design and construction of the project is estimated at $35 million.

The Anoka Technical College is also looking for $1.5 million in state funding to design, renovate and equip space to meet workforce training needs in automotive and manufacturing technologies.

In Fridley, the city is asking for $5 for significant expansion to the Springbrook Nature Center.

And just across the Mississippi River in Champlin, officials would like $3.73 million to build design and construct a new Elm Creek Dam at the Mill Pond. The current dam is in need of full replacement.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) and includes 21 members of the Minnesota House. The committee was reviewing dozens of other projects around the state during its tour.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]