Heavy rains shelve Patoka River project


JASPER — A long-discussed Jasper project has been delayed yet again by Mother Nature.

Originally slated to begin in September 2018, construction work that would both remove a sediment pile in the Patoka River near the Jasper City Mill and see the installation of a toe wood shelf on the west side of the dam could be pushed back as far as the summer of 2020.

“Ultimately what caused the delay is all the rain we got over the winter and earlier this spring,” said Chad Hurm, Jasper’s city engineer. “The elevations at the [Patoka] reservoir are supposed to be so high. In order for us to do our work, we have to have the river levels drop so that we can work in the bottom of the river at that location.”

Heavy rains pushed water to the Patoka Dam’s spillway in June. As of Tuesday evening, the reservoir was at 542.9 feet, or about 7 feet above summer pool levels.

The dam’s water levels have been stalling the project since last fall.

“Because the reservoir is so high, the Corps of Engineers is not in a position where they can reduce the discharge to the point we need to get it down to,” Hurm said of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who manages the dam.

Other than being an aesthetic eyesore, the sediment buildup takes up space in the river’s channel and restricts flow downstream. The shelf will reinforce the riverbank — which has been eroding — and narrow the width of the channel in the area to prevent sediment buildup. If that shelf isn’t installed, the sediment pile would need to be removed periodically.

Hurm would like to say the work could be completed next spring, but he said the timeline is dependent on the weather and the reservoir capacity.

“I’d say we’re probably looking at summer before we’re in a position to actually do the work,” he said, adding that it “shouldn’t take more than four or five weeks.”

The city has a project contract with Kerns Excavating of Bicknell, but that could change because of time constraints and other things.

“We’re working with them on whether or not we’re going to void the contract, pay them for what work they have in and we may have to rebid the project,” Hurm said. “We’re still looking into how we’re gonna go forward with that.

“Because of [the] cost of fuel and cost of equipment and various things like that, it’s hard for us to justify them waiting another eight or nine months before we can do the work. We’re looking to see what we can do.”

The project will be funded through the stormwater department and has a total price tag of around $150,000. Hurm said the issues the work aims to fix have been ongoing for a while.

“We’ve cleaned out the river two times over the last several years,” he said. “We’ve had that dredged out. So, part of the plan is to build this so that we don’t have to get out there to dredge the river again, and the other part is that riverbank on the north side, we’ve been losing that little by little over many years. So it’s to help stabilize that as well.”

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