The city of Coon Rapids and Anoka County are working together to create a public safety boat launch below the Coon Rapids Dam.
The boat launch in the county’s Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park will not be for public use, but for water rescue operations on the Mississippi River by the Coon Rapids Fire Department and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Dave Full, city project manager, the city has been working with the Anoka County Parks Department and the sheriff’s office on the project.
County parks crews have cleared the site for the boat launch, removing rocks and debris and putting in a gravel base to make it usable now, Full said.
Next spring the boat launch will be completed by county work crews.
“This will be the first boat launch immediately below the dam for water rescue operations,” Full said.
In the past, the fire department would have to carry the boat over the rocks to launch it, he said.
The other option was to drive three miles downstream to Fridley to launch the rescue boat at a boat launch in that community, according to Full.
“In a rescue situation, when time is of the essence, that does not make sense,” Full said.
Earlier this year, the fire department purchased two water rescue boats, one for use above the dam and the other below the dam, to replace the boat the fire department had been using both above and below the dam for water rescues.
That boat was taken out of service in 2012 because it had leaks and was not safe to operate, nor deal with the powerful currents above the dam, according to Capt. Mark Seaton of the fire department.
The new boat acquired by the fire department for operations below the dam is a 13-foot inflatable with rigid hull and a 25 horsepower jet drive motor.
With its rigid hull, it will work well below the dam, where the water is often shallow and there is a rocky bottom, Seaton said.
Unlike the old boat, it does not have a propeller that can be damaged by the rocks and nothing is hanging below the keel of the boat.
According to Coon Rapids Fire Chief John Piper, the boat launch will not only make water rescue operations below the dam more effective, it resolves a safety issue.
It is not safe for firefighters to be lifting and carrying a boat over the rocks to launch in the river, particularly with the new boat, which is bigger and heavier than the old one, Piper said.
The project cost has been “minute,” he said.
The new boat is also faster than the old one and can carry more people.
For above the dam operations, where there is an Anoka County boat launch in the regional park, the fire department has purchased a 21-foot Zodiac with twin 35-horsepower motors.
The boat launch has been closed this year because of the Coon Rapids Dam reconstruction project, but a temporary boat launch has been provided by the project contractor, Edward Kraemer.
The two boats cost a combined $78,000 and are housed at Fire Station 1 on Egret Boulevard, which is a short drive to the regional park.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]