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Crowd expected for River Falls dam re-licensing

 A grassroots group called “Friends of the Kinni” is urging local citizens to attend a federal re-licensing hearing Monday, March 24, at City Hall on the two 70-year old dams in River Falls.

The hearing will take public comments starting at 5:30 p.m. A River Falls Utility Advisory meeting will follow.

“We want people to realize that this re-licensing process, one that comes along rarely, every 30 years, is a perfect time for the community to come together and assess whether it is still appropriate to obstruct the free flow of this gem of a stream,” said local attorney Keith Rodli, a Friends member, referring to the Kinnickinnic River.

Added Rodli: “Thankfully, the licensing process includes an opportunity for the ordering of studies, and that is exactly what we need: Good studies on all aspects of our dams – financial, health of the stream, any and all relevant issues that people want to raise.

“For me, that’s the bottom line: Get good studies and then we can sort it out.”

The re-licensing process will take a few years. It is required by the federal government.

Some members of Friends of the Kinni favor eventually removing the hydro dams to restore the natural falls so “the Kinni can run free again.”

The Powell Falls and Junction Falls dams have created the artificial lakes of George and Louise.

George, especially, is covered by algae blooms in summer. The dams and lakes are said to raise the water temperature downstream that could affect the river’s trout population.

The hydro dams produce about 2% of the electrical power used by River Falls Utility customers.