Whitewater park plans (copy)

A view toward the Fourth Street bridge in 2018.

City of Stoughton officials might have to wait for the snow to melt before deciding the fate of a proposed dam removal along the Yahara River.

A final round of hydrological surveys of the Yahara by Strand, the project’s engineering and design company, should shed light on water-flow patterns on the river. That information is needed to help city leaders decide between removing the current South Fourth Street dam, building a new dam and creating a whitewater park, or making no changes at all.

But to do their work, surveyors must wait until the river is flowing faster, parks and recreation director Dan Glynn wrote in an email to the Hub. That means waiting for a thaw.

Local alders heard an update about the project at a Feb. 4 committee of the whole meeting.

If the City Council votes to leave the dam as is, they’d also need to withdraw the dam-removal permit application that was part of the 2020 Municipal Dam Program Grant application, Glynn wrote.

The Feb. 4 meeting was scheduled after the state Department of Natural Resources denied the city a $400,000 grant to help pay for the removal of the Fourth Street dam in January. The three-hour presentation, attended virtually by around 80 people, included slides about the history of the whitewater park going back to 2016, the current design, project benefits and the budget for the proposed park.

Last week’s meeting also included a sediment assessment report prepared by Inter-Fluve Inc. for the Stoughton dam in September and December of 2019, which reported a sediment layer ranging from 1-9 feet thick in the millpond directly north of the dam. Jim Killian, a Wisconsin DNR water management specialist, discussed the water quality of the Yahara River, which he said was not dangerous to users.

During the meeting, it was clear some alders disagreed on how to move forward. Sid Boersma (Dist. 1) and Fred Hundt (D-4) questioned the validity of the studies presented, including the water sample studies and the economic impact study done by University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students in 2018.

Boersma said that the presentation felt more like an advertisement on the project and wasn’t inviting opposing opinions. Regina Hirsch (D-3), chair of the whitewater park steering committee and council president, said Boersma’s comment was insulting to the presenters and everyone who spend a lot of time preparing for the presentation.

After Strand presents its latest findings, the whitewater park steering committee and parks and recreation committee will make recommendations to the City Council.

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