Public hearings set for proposed Minidoka work

Capital Press file photo State officials and water managers tour Minidoka Dam in this Capital Press file photo.

Cost to repair dam drops because of weak economy

By DAVE WILKINS

Capital Press

The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled three public meetings in January on the Minidoka Dam spillway replacement project.

The agency plans to replace the spillway and headworks at the 103-year-old dam and has prepared a draft environmental impact statement.

The public will get a chance to comment on the document at the following meetings:

* Jan. 12 -- 7 to 9 p.m., Red Lion Inn, 475 River Parkway, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

* Jan. 13 -- 7 to 9 p.m., Cotton Tree Inn, 1415 Bench Road, Pocatello, Idaho.

* Jan. 14 -- 7 to 9 p.m., Fairfield Inn, 230 West 7th St. N., Burley, Idaho.

The dam needs major rehabilitation work to prevent structural failure of the existing spillway and headworks, bureau officials said.

The draft impact statement lays out three alternatives: no action, replacement of both spillway and headworks or replacement of the spillway only.

The agency's preferred alternative is to replace both the spillway and headworks. The headworks show concrete deterioration similar to the spillway conditions, officials said.

Bids are expected to be awarded sometime late next summer and construction could start in the fall after the irrigation season is over, activity manager John Tiedeman said.

The work is expected to take about 21/2 years.

The project has been on the drawing board for some time. One of the benefits of the lengthy process has been that cost estimates have come down considerably, due mostly to the weak economy.

During a tour of the dam in September 2008, officials said the project could cost $60 million to $70 million. Now they expect it to cost closer to $45 million.

"Some of the bids we have gotten are 40 to 60 percent lower than some of the initial engineering estimates," Tiedeman said.

Federal funds will pay for about 58 percent of the project, while local irrigation districts will have to come up with 42 percent.

No federal stimulus dollars will be used because the project wasn't "shovel ready" when the appropriations were made, Tiedeman said.

There's been some discussion about possibly raising the level of Minidoka Dam by as much as 5 feet to provide an additional 55,000 acre-feet of storage space. A feasibility study hasn't been completed.

Online

The Bureau of Reclamation's Minidoka Dam environmental impact statement is online at www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/eis/minidokadam/index.html.

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