by Bob Luck
With a path toward dam removal and restoration becoming clear, 2022 will likely go down as one of the most important years in the history of the Kinnickinnic River since the Ice Age!
The Kinnickinnic is an iconic river, boasting more than 20 miles of Class I trout water within an hour's drive of a metropolitan area that bustles with over 3 million people. And it is the only Exceptional Resource Water in the State of Wisconsin to flow through a city of over 10,000. The Kinni is home water for many TCTU members, including me.
Progress towards a free-flowing Kinni
In 2019, the River Falls City Council voted to remove the two remaining dams on the Kinni, which would connect the entire river from source to mouth, reduce summertime water temperatures in the lower river, and restore two miles of prime trout water in an area that has long been submerged in shallow, silt-filled impoundments. The lower (Powell Falls) dam was scheduled for removal in 2025, and the upper (Junction Falls) dam was scheduled for removal between 2035-2040.
In March of 2022, we shared the news with you that the City of River Falls had accelerated the plans to remove the Powell Dam, due to damage incurred by the dam during the flood of June 2020. We asked for your help in funding the Kinni restoration, and set a goal of $15,000 in donations, to be matched by $15,000 from our chapter account. A few weeks later, we exceeded that goal, and set a new goal of $30,000 in donations.
In late May, we received news that the City of River Falls had received a grant of $1 million from the Wisconsin DNR's Dam Removal Fund, the maximum allowable amount.
Army Corps could help remove both dams
In late summer, we learned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) had expressed an interest in getting involved in the ecological restoration of the entire river corridor affected by the two dams. They would bring unmatched expertise, plus up to $10 million of federal funding to the project.
In November, thanks to strong support from TCTU, Kiap-TU-Wish, and our partners at the Kinni Corridor Collaborative, the River Falls City Council voted to approve a Feasibility Study with the ACOE. Upon the successful completion of the study (expected in 2024), the ACOE will present a formal proposal to the City, and will commence work upon approval. We now expect restoration of the river to be completed as much as a decade ahead of the original target of 2035-2040.
There is still much work to be done before the Kinni flows free, but our progress over the past 9 months has been terrific. I am looking forward to fishing a completely restored Kinni with my grandchildren.
You support matters
We couldn't have made it this far without your support. Donations from TCTU members and supporters provide critical seed money to attract funds from foundations and public sources. As of of December 1st, donations stood at $29,000, just short of our (revised!) goal of $30,000. If you have not yet donated to Free the Kinni, or if you are able to give an additional gift, please consider a year-end donation.
If you have any questions about the Kinni, including conservation or fishing, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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