By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) is advertising for bids for the Champion Mill Dam Rehabilitation and Sediment Removal project. The project was made necessary after damage to a gate at the dam and silting of Champion Lake following a June, 2007 flood.
Bids will be opened and awarded on Feb. 9.
Jim Fuller, Administrator of the NGPC Parks Division, said Tuesday that he is pleased that the project is getting underway.
“It took awhile to get everything passed through the appropriate agencies,” he said. Fuller had initially hoped the project would be completed in 2009.
About $222,217 has been appropriated for the project. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse the state for 75 percent of the cost, while the Nebraska Legislature approved an allocation of $55,554 for the portion that will not be reimbursed.
Fuller said the project includes several points.
“We will clean up in front of the existing control structure (dam),” he said. Silt dredged from that deepened area will then be used to build a quarter circle berm in front of the structure.
“The quarter circle will be hard surfaced, with concrete and rip rap materials,” Fuller continued.
That berm is designed to control flood water that may be aimed toward the dam.
In addition, the contractor will pour a concrete wall “that lines up with the north wall of the existing raceway. The existing control structure will be left in place for historic purposes,” with the gates locked in the open position.
A new control structure will be built into the concrete wall, consisting of drop boards that can be raised or lowered in slots to control the flow of water, Fuller said.
Fuller said it’s up to the contractor who receives the bid as to when he can begin and complete the project.
Two Champion residents who were part of a group that, on their own, repaired the damaged gate, question whether the new control structure is necessary.
Charlie Beard said the gates are now operational at the dam.
He said one gate was first damaged in a 1997 flood, and was hard to open. Beard said the state poured some concrete in the gate’s slot, but didn’t totally fix it at that point.
He said local residents recently ground down the cement enough to let the gate go up and down, cut braces to take out a twist in the gate’s cables, rewelded them and “fixed it to go up and down.”
He said, “The Game and Parks wanted the gates to be automatic, so the guys got a 110 volt pivot motor and built a couple to hook on to the top of the gate cranks. It runs up and down fine” with an electrical connection into the Champion Mill.
Beard said the NGPC
“paid zero attention” to the fact that the gate that didn’t work now does.
Burton Beard of Champion said the group that repaired the gate has “wondered that for quite some time” as to why the NGPC would spend money to fix something that isn’t broken.
“We fixed the gate so it would go up and down, and put an electric motor on it so it would raise easier,” he said.
He added that the dam “needs a little cosmetic stuff on the back of the dike and dig a little dirt out,” but that local residents basically fixed the problems they saw at the dam site.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had originally requested that the NGPC drain Champion Lake following the flood in 2007. The lake, filled by the Frenchman River, has been lying half empty or more since then.