Posted on July 19, 2023
MITCHELL — The city’s wetland project along Firesteel Creek is on the horizon.
The Mitchell City Council will consider awarding a bid for the construction of the wetland project at Monday’s meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
City officials are recommending Whiskeyboard Construction’s $583,997 bid to lead the project, pending approval from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The roughly 35-acre wetland will be built on the former Kelley property that the city purchased in 2019, which sits about 2 miles west of Lake Mitchell.
According to Public Works Director Joe Schroeder’s memo in the council agenda, construction is set to begin in August 2024 and wrap up by November 2024. Ducks Unlimited recently completed the design of the wetland, which allowed the project to enter the bidding stages.
As part of the design, cattails will be planted in the wetlands to filter out phosphorus and runoff flowing toward Lake Mitchell. The high loads of phosphorus that funnel into the lake via Firesteel Creek is a key contributor to the lake’s long history of algae woes. City leaders’ goal of the wetland is to drastically reduce the phosphorus and sediment before reaching the lake.
Firesteel Creek sits in a watershed that spans 350,000 acres, which collects around 900 parts per billion of phosphorus each year. Previous studies on the lake found that roughly 53 percent of the phosphorus and sediment entering the lake is coming in from Firesteel Creek, while 47 percent of it is in the lake itself.
There were 10 bids submitted for the project, and Whiskeyboard Construction’s bid was the lowest bid. Three bids came in at just over $1 million. Bids opened on July 10. Whiskeyboard Construction is based out of Oshkosh, Nebraska.
While city leaders have been focused on advancing a proposed Lake Mitchell dredging project, the wetland and continued work in the watershed is viewed by some city council members as vital steps before taking on a multimillion-dollar dredging project.
The city’s mission of working with landowners in the Firesteel watershed to reduce creek runoff received a big boost a few years ago from the $1.1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant. Steve Donovan, a biologist and former manager of conservation programs with Ducks Unlimited, is administering the grant and has created 29 new acres of wetlands, according to city officials.
The grant has paid out roughly $174,000, city officials say.