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Groundbreaking for Willow River State Park dam reconstruction June 26

Published by Central Office June 19, 2018

Contact(s): Melissa Vanlanduyt, Wisconsin State Parks, 608-266-7617 or Paul Holtan, DNR Office of Communications, 608-267-7517

HUDSON, Wis. - State and local officials will celebrate the groundbreaking for the reconstruction of Little Falls Dam on the Willow River within Willow River State Park at a ceremony at 1 p.m. on June 26. The public is welcome to attend.

The Willow Falls Dam before it was breached.  - Photo credit: DNR
The Willow Falls Dam before it was breached. Photo credit: DNR
The Willow Falls Dam breached.  - Photo credit: DNR
The dam, which was breached in 2015 due to structural concerns, will be rebuilt beginning this summer. Photo credit: DNR

The Willow River was dammed in the park, forming the 172-acre Little Falls Lake in the 1920s. The lake has been a popular recreation area in the park, offering non-motorized boating, fishing and a swimming beach. In 2015 dam inspections indicated elements of the dam need to be brought into compliance, as well as possible structural issues related to the foundation.

The Department of Natural Resources then began the process of draining Little Falls Lake, including a breach of the dam to fully drain the lake. Later in 2015 the department made the determination that the dam would be replaced. The governor and state Legislature had previously set aside $8 million for the dam replacement. The governor included an additional $11 million for the dam project in the 2016-17 budget after more recent cost estimates placed the project cost at $19 million. Bonding would come from all agency funding sources and from non-allocated Stewardship land acquisition funding.

Contracts have been awarded to Miron Construction to reconstruct the dam. The new dam has been designed by Mead & Hunt Inc., with on-site assistance from Stevens Engineering. Site work will begin late in June to install erosion control measures, security fencing, prepare the site for removal of the remaining dam components and to do stream alignment work. At this time, construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2020.

During construction, some area of the park will be closed for staging and construction. There will be areas within the park for the public to watch construction activities. Other than truck traffic there is not expected to be other impacts on park activities.

People can find out more about the Little Falls dam and the reconstruction project by searching the DNR website for keywords "Willow River," and clicking on the link in the right side navigation panel for "Little Falls Dam."

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications