LANESBORO — Four mayors, 12 city council members and three city administrators.
It's been a long process, but on Thursday, officials from the state of Minnesota, Fillmore County and the city of Lanesboro gathered to cut the ribbon and celebrate the completion of the reconstruction and refurbishment of the Lanesboro Dam.
"Today is a very special day for the city of Lanesboro, Fillmore County, the entire Root River region," said state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. Miller, the president of the Minnesota Senate, added, "We had to go through a lot of hoops and over a lot of hurdles to get this done, but we finally got it."
The $4 million, state-funded project was originally set for reconstruction in 2019, but heavy rains that year made work on the dam problematic. The project was also delayed after the State Historic Preservation Office delayed permits for the dam reconstruction due to the historical significance of the dam.
"Not only is it a historic piece of Lanesboro and the entire region, but it's a major safety feature for the region as well," Miller said.
That fact was emphasized by Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge, who said reconstruction and reinforcement of the dam gives him peace of mind.
"I can stand here and listen to all of the important things the legislators and city leaders say about this thing, and they're absolutely right," DeGeorge said. "But my concern is that dam breaking. Every time our emergency manager was parked up there watching that, we were wondering what would happen if that thing broke."
Now, DeGeorge said, major rain events bring concerns of flooding, but not the fear of "a catastrophic dam break, which would completely change the game."
Lanesboro Mayor Jason Resseman said in addition to the score of people shepherding the project over a dozen years, the project took 3,500 cubic yards of concrete, 5,500 tons of rock and about 5,000 man-hours of labor to complete. But the result is a dam that will last for the next couple of generations and beyond.
Going forward, the dam provides hydroelectric power for the city, safety for the town and downstream region, and the dam serves as a draw for tourists from around the region.
"It's probably one of the most photographed spots in the state, with the exception of Split Rock Lighthouse," Resseman said. "We take much pride in it."
That pride turned into concern a dozen years ago when a maintenance check on the dam showed structural problems. The city then approached state officials to get funding for the project.
Fillmore County Commissioner Duane Bakke said at one point, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommended removing the dam completely and replacing it with flat rapids, something he — and many fans of the dam — did not like.
State Rep Greg Davids said he started working on the project about a dozen years ago and, but deferred credit to city leaders who kept showing up and making their case through the years.
Thanking former Mayor Robin Krom, Davids said, "Thank you for your trips to the Capitol. That makes a big difference when the local mayor is sitting at the table with the legislator, with the DNR working together on something we really know is that important."
Standing in the rain after cutting the ribbon to celebrate the project's completion, Resseman called the dam "emblematic of the city."
"Whenever we have a meeting down here, it's raining or snowing, so apparently today's weather is perfect for the event," Resseman joked.