Completion of Elm Creek Dam marks place in history

By Megan Hopps
SUN PRESS Newspapers

The completion of the Elm Creek Dam has been a long time coming, according to city officials who attended the grand opening of the project Saturday, June 25.

Champlin legislators line up to cut the ribbon deeming the Elm Creek Dam officially open for public use. From left: Councilor Eric Johnson, Councilor Ryan Karasek, Mayor ArMand Nelson, Rep. Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) and Councilor Bruce Miller. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)
Champlin legislators line up to cut the ribbon deeming the Elm Creek Dam officially open for public use. From left: Councilor Eric Johnson, Councilor Ryan Karasek, Mayor ArMand Nelson, Rep. Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) and Councilor Bruce Miller. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

In 2014 Champlin’s legislators, Rep. Mark Uglem and Sen. John Hoffman, were able to secure nearly $3 million to reconstruct the Elm Creek Dam. This was the first time in the history of Champlin that state bonding proceeds were given to the city. The dam it would replace was constructed back in 1935 and required the city’s public works department to manually move 10 2-by-12’s to regulate water levels.
The new dam is expected to improve flood control, provide safer working conditions for operation and provide maintenance of water levels for restoration of aquatic vegetation and aquatic habitats.
“This project has been a journey,” said Todd Tuominen. “This was such a collaborative project; it took funding from many sources to make this possible. The city of Champlin partnered with Hennepin County, the West Mississippi Watershed District, the Elm Creek Watershed District, the DNR and the bonding bill. Collectively, that provided all the funding for this project.”

Mayor ArMand Nelson took the podium Saturday, June 25, and thanked legislators, the council, city staff and C.S. McCrossan construction for making seeing the project through — everything from securing funding and informing the public to planning, engineering and constructing the dam. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)
Mayor ArMand Nelson took the podium Saturday, June 25, and thanked legislators, the council, city staff and C.S. McCrossan construction for making seeing the project through — everything from securing funding and informing the public to planning, engineering and constructing the dam. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

The reconstruction of the Elm Creek Dam is the first of the part of a multi-year project that is aimed at restoring the Elm Creek and Mill Pond that flows to the Mississippi River. This multi-phase project, the Northern Gateway Project, has been identified to be the most beneficial plan to improve habitat, water quality and flood control along the river in Champlin.
“The project is expected to reduce the number of flood plain acres, improve public safety and improve access to the river,” Tuominen said.
He explained that throughout the planning process, staff learned about the original dam. It was a historically significant structure built in the 1930s that supported a thriving flour mill. Throughout the process, the city hired a historian and an archeologist to guide them through the design process. According to Tuominen, city staff learned more about Champlin’s first explorers, native settlements, early settlers and their industries.
“The original dam outlived its useful life; it was actually dangerous,” Tuominen said. “Hennepin County actually had to close down the trail on top of the dam because it became a hazard.”
Champlin’s legislators were pleased to see the project in its completion. City officials explained that the next step is to secure state funding to restore the Champlin Mill Pond.
“The Mill Pond used to be beautiful, clean water that kids could canoe, fish and swim in,” Uglem said. “It was a wonderful recreational resource right in the heart of the city — and it no longer is.”
Together, Rep. Uglem and Sen. Hoffman were vying to secure state funding in the 2016 bonding bill however, the bonding bill failed moments before legislative session concluded.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Uglem said.

City Administrator Bret Heitkamp explains to Champlin’s legislators and residents the city’s next steps for the Mississippi Crossings project. The plans include a restaurant with rooftop dining, docks for boaters and an outdoor performance and music venue. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)
City Administrator Bret Heitkamp explains to Champlin’s legislators and residents the city’s next steps for the Mississippi Crossings project. The plans include a restaurant with rooftop dining, docks for boaters and an outdoor performance and music venue. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

If state funds are not secured for the next phase of the project, the city has $2 million from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for restorative efforts for the Mill Pond.
“It’s a major priority for the city, for the residents and for future development which will bring needed tax dollars to the city along the river,” Uglem said. “It will put Champlin on the map and make it really a much better place to live.”
Sen. Hoffman added that there are 1,000 dams in the state of Minnesota — 100 of which were built around the same time as the Elm Creek Dam.
“This is only the beginning,” Hoffman said. “But we need to finish the job. The new dam will decrease the cost of insurance for folks that live in the 60 acre flood plain and improve public safety. There’s not going to be any more 2-by-12’s. That is a beautiful structure.”
Only time will tell the future of the Champlin Mill Pond. Funding and design plans are often changing, but city officials insist, it is a priority for the city to see this project through.
“This is a momentous day for the city of Champlin,” Hoffman said.

Contact Megan Hopps at [email protected]