Patoka River project coming off the shelf


JASPER — A long-planned Jasper project is set to be rebid in the not-too-distant future.

Originally slated to begin in September 2018, construction work that will 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 is on pace to begin later this summer.

Twice delayed by heavy rains and elevated pools at the nearby Patoka Lake reservoir, city leadership aims to bid out the work in late July or early August. Weather-permitting, the project — which is estimated to cost about $150,000 — will begin in the late summer and take between three and four weeks to complete.

“With the weather and the [Patoka Lake] reservoir where they are now, we shouldn’t have any issues with water levels,” City Engineer Chad Hurm said in a Monday phone interview. “We still, obviously, have to work with the reservoir to drop it. But they’re in a lot better shape this summer than they were last year.”

The project has been delayed repeatedly due to high water levels at Patoka Lake. Last June, rains pushed the height to the dam’s spillway. Monday, the level sat at 535 feet — more than 13 feet lower than it reached in July 2019.

“We need to bring the river down so we can get out in there to work with it reasonably shallow,” Hurm explained. “And we’ve just been unable to coordinate with the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers on a time that works for them as well.”

The hope and belief is that this year it will work.

Other than being an aesthetic eyesore, the river’s sediment buildup takes up space in the 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. Part of the work also involves using tree root wads as a natural barrier for stabilization and erosion controllers along the riverbank side of the shelf.

“Barring a lot of rain in the next couple months — which typically, July is not a real wet month — we should be in a lot better shape this summer than we have been,” Hurm said. “And the reservoir is in good shape. They’ve got room up there for storage.

“So hopefully, knock on wood, everything will work out and we can get this done.”

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