Audubon Dam project

City officials found available USDA funding for a $640,000 dam project — a savings for city and county officials and for Hungry Canyons which would have put up about 80 percent of the cost.

AUDUBON — The Audubon City Council will be saving some funds on the repair of a dam that helps feed the city’s wells, thanks to funding from the USDA, and the funding will also benefit the county and agencies that were going to — originally — help pay for the work.

Damage to the dam that helped collect water in the East Nishnabotna River — and helped feed alluvial wells the city depends on — resulted in need for repairs. The dam — also called a weir — was built about 50 years ago, and it also helps reduce erosion along stream beds in the county.

Last fall officials were looking at funding that would have been shared between two agencies and the city and county. Funding from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Hungry Canyons (HC) would have paid 75 percent (NRCS) and 10 percent (HC) of the estimated $640,000 repair costs, leaving 15 percent to be split between the city of Audubon and Audubon County.

City Clerk Joe Foran said the new USDA funding would be 100 percent of the cost of the work, saving the city and county about 7.5 percent each, and allowing Hungry Canyons to utilize their share in the funding for other projects. “This is a win, win,” Foran said, for the city, county and more.

Work has started on part of the repair project, Foran said riprap had been collected but he didn’t know when the rest of the project would be let for bids.

The city has been dealing with water collection issues — and had been drilling test wells and considering fixing some current wells to increase production.

Foran said after not finding good locations for new wells, the city was looking at a process called air blasting to clean out existing wells, in an attempt to increase production. “We did that on one well,” he said, “and (production) went up quite a bit.”

The council had looked at traditional and non traditional technology, including a process that would have drilled a well horizontally, in an effort to spread out the area water is collected in.

The process there was very new and still very expensive. “The council didn’t want to risk going into that,” and spend a lot of money for an uncertain result. “We wanted to have other people do that first, so we’d have a track record to go off of,” he said. If air blasting existing wells could double some of the outputs of the wells, Foran said, “that would basically be the equivalent of drilling one to two new wells.”

He said he was also meeting this week with engineers to talk about the next phase of the city’s sewer project.

After other sewer work had been completed, the city had about $1.1 million in grant funds available to use for additional work like CIP lining (a process that can fix old sewer lines without digging up the street).

“We are looking for additional areas we can fix,” he said, “while the city has this funding available.”

In addition, Foran said the process of replacing water meters around Audubon is going well, and is ahead of schedule thanks to the mild winter weather. “They’ve been able to get quite a few done,” he said.