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North River Valley Low Head Dam Project Set to Begin Construction on Monday

The low head dam on the South Skunk River in North River Valley Park is scheduled for improvements beginning on Monday, Aug. 6. RW Excavating Solutions, of Prairie City, has been hired to modify the low head dam and add a water recreation feature designed to appeal to kayakers, tubers, and canoers. The project is slated for completion in November, weather permitting. A fish passage will be installed to allow the migration of aquatic species upstream, a channel that was previously restricted by the low head dam. River bank access will be improved so anglers, water trail users, and the public can enjoy the new water features.

Throughout construction, a portion of the shared use path through North River Valley Park will not be open for public use, and users should follow the posted detour. Additionally, the Cottonwood Shelter will be closed for the season, and the park area nearby will be restricted from public use. The public can expect a significant number of trucks turning into and out of North River Valley Park onto 13th Street. Motorists should use caution in that area. Paddlers should avoid the river in this area until the project is complete. Signs will be posted upstream as a reminder.

The purpose of the Low Head Dam Improvement Project is mainly to improve safety by eliminating recirculation hydraulics that were caused by the dam. The low head dam was constructed in 1984 to pool water in the South Skunk River to recharge the aquifer that supplies drinking water to the City of Ames. The dam will continue to serve this purpose, but will be transformed into a safer and more accessible area. The boulder weirs that will be installed will break up the uniform hydraulics, preventing the dangerous undertow from forming below the dam.

More than $390,000 in grant funds from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Low Head Dam Mitigation Grant Program and the Water Trails Grant Program will be used towards this project. Contributions from the Outdoor Alliance of Story County, Iowa Whitewater Coalition, and the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association have also been pledged. The total cost of the project is expected to be just over $1 million dollars.

Susan Gwiasda, Public Relations Officer,, 515.239.5204
Christina Murphy, Assistant Director, Water and Pollution Control,, 515.239.5150

Captions: 1. An artist’s rendering of the low head dam project shows the additional features planned. 

Submitted by City of Ames

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