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Improvements Planned for Pinicon Ridge Park Dam in Central City

The Linn County Conservation Board has awarded a contract for improvements on the Pinicon Ridge Park dam located along the Wapsipinicon River in Central City just east of Highway 13.

This project will address safety, fish habitat and river recreation passage for canoes and kayaks.

“Design, engineering and permitting has taken some time due to the complex nature of addressing issues of aquatic life, recreation opportunities and impact to Pinicon Ridge Park,” said Daniel Gibbins, Linn County Conservation Deputy Director. “The design process involved developing a dual feature passage below the dam for river ecology and safety for paddlers by incorporating the expertise of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and significant input from the public. We are now excited to move forward with the development phase of this project.”

The existing dam will not be removed, but rather modified through the lowering of the top of the dam 12-18 inches, and placement of boulders and other engineered materials downstream to allow fish and paddle sport passage. The “swirling water” effect which can trap debris and endanger anyone caught will be eliminated. Fish and mussel passage through a “fish ladder” on the west side of the river will eliminate the current ecological block and promote healthier populations of these species north of the dam. Splash pools on the east side of the river will promote both safe paddle sport passage and enhance opportunities for anglers through additional fish habitat. The project features a no-rise design not resulting in higher water elevations upstream or downstream that would cause a detrimental impact to Pinicon Ridge Park or the City of Central City.

“The park areas, such as the campgrounds and watercraft concession may still be prone to flooding from excessive rains and high river levels upstream, but not as a result of this dam project design. We worked hard to find the right balance of lowering the dam while keeping adequate river pool depth upstream for park and river recreation along the Wapsi,” Gibbins said.  

Boomerang Construction of Anamosa was awarded the $3.4 million contract. The project is expected to begin later this year after October 15. Construction work will continue through 2023 as low water flow on the Wapsipinicon River allows.

The project is funded through Iowa Department of Natural Resources low-head dam/fish habitat, U.S Fish and Wildlife, and Linn County Water and Land Legacy Bonds.

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