Whitewater Park plans may remove Fourth Street dam

The proposed Whitewater Park in downtown Stoughton includes plans to remove the Fourth Street Dam.

The City of Stoughton’s plan to remove a dam as part of a whitewater park is not eligible for a state grant, the Department of Natural Resources has ruled.

City leaders are planning to meet this month to discuss how to proceed.

The whitewater park steering committee and the city applied for the Municipal Dam Grant funds in 2020 as part of a larger project to build a recreational whitewater park near Mandt Park on the Yahara River. The proposed removal of the dam, which some alders and city staff have said is imperative for safety and to improve water quality. Some area residents; however, including some living upstream in the Town of Pleasant Springs, have stated a belief that removing the dam would have adverse effects on wildlife and smells on the riverbank.

The DNR denied the grant because the first paddling feature on the proposed whitewater park creates a head where it holds back water and acts as a dam; under the state’s definition, Dan Glynn, parks and recreation director, and lead on the project told the Hub in an email.

The city plans to hold a Committee of the Whole meeting this month to determine how to move forward with the project, Glynn said. The date and time of the meeting is still being determined as of Monday, Jan. 4.

The meeting aims to help the Common Council decide on the dam removal, with four options, Glynn said:

  • Abandon the idea of a whitewater park and remove the dam with the DNR grant funding;
  • Attempt to redefine a dam in state law;
  • Design the whitewater park without the dam removal grant funding; or
  • Keep the dam in place

If the city were to redesign the park, it could incorporate the current foundation for the dam, which would save an estimated $150,000.

The cost for the dam removal is estimated at $562,000, of which $400,000 would be covered by DNR grant. The city would be responsible for the remediation and restoration of the millpond and without the whitewater park, which was engineered to maintain water levels, the water level could drop an additional 2 to 2.5 feet, Glynn said.

The Municipal Dam Grant program provided $4 million for the 2019-2021 cycle to fund eligible engineering and construction costs associated with the maintenance, repair, modification or abandonment and removal of municipally owned dams, according to the DNR’s website.

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at mackenzie.krumme@wcinet.com.