The recovery of debris washed away from the Little Falls Lake Dam construction site is nearly complete, according to officials tasked with evaluating the situation.
Miron Construction Co., the contractor hired to construct a new dam at Willow River State Park, said Monday, April 8, that cleanup was 90 percent complete. Total cleanup was expected to be complete "in the very near future," according to Miron spokeswoman Jen Bauer.
Lumber and other construction materials were swept away March 24 after a swollen Willow River breached a dam that protected the construction site.
Pat Collins, a Department of Natural Resources hydrologist based in Baldwin, said he has investigated the impacted area and was satisfied with the company's cleanup effort.
Miron said construction equipment that was retrieved included concrete blankets, wooden planks, a dumpster and other containers, an aluminum boat, a crane mat, silt felt bags, construction cones and sections of pump hose.
Neighbors helped with the cleanup effort, Miron officials said.
Collins said he has since been in touch with anglers who frequent the river. Collins said they were at first concerned about the extent of the incident and its possible impact on the fish habitat, but they were "pretty satisfied" with the cleanup job.
"I would concur with that," he said, calling the Miron effort "a really, really bang-up job."
Collins investigated reports of a petroleum smell along the river.
"There was a hint of it in the air," he said.
Collins said the smell dissipated after Miron crews removed insulated blankets and lumber from the area.
He said the DNR will continue to monitor the river's health throughout the summer.
Miron project leaders also found no signs of long-term impacts left by the breach. Bauer said the company will work with state agencies to produce a final report summarizing the incident's impact and all remediation efforts.
Collins said there might have been a silver lining for anglers; one fisherman told him the torrent flushed out sediment that reopened some good fishing spots.
Collins also inspected Lake Mallalieu, where residents also reported a suspected petroleum smell. He said he conducted "a pretty intensive search" but couldn't find the smell. Miron crews used a boat to remove debris from the Mallalieu, Collins said.
"They take it very seriously," he said.
The company noted that its crews also removed four large containers' worth of non-project-related debris, including trash, plastic bottles, flip-flops and aluminum cans.
The cleanup effort precedes a major snowstorm forecast to bring heavy snow and some rain to the area. Collins said that in spite of heavy snowfall predictions, he doubted that its runoff would present the same conditions that caused the March breach.
The breach came after a combination of high water and ice floating down the river that coincided to create the rush, Collins said.