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Don’t give up on dam projects

County board members must not let a screw up by the county’s engineering firm in applying for a grant cost residents recreational opportunities for years to come.

The county has been working with Ayres Associates on replacement of the Chelsea Lake and Camp 8 dams and for replacement of the sluice gate at Miller Dam. Ayres Associates prepared the grant applications for the county for a 50% matching grant through a state program. The work at Camp 8 was specifi cally conditional on if the county received grant funds.

Dam grant applications use a point system to rank the proposed projects from across the state. Of the 32 projects submitted 23 were approved for funding. Camp 8 ranked 25 in the projects with 174 points and Chelsea Dam ranked 28 with 159 points. Points are awarded or deducted based on a variety of criteria including if plans were turned in on time.

Taylor County got the short end of the stick with the grants due to an oversight by Ayres Associates in not getting the grant plans to the state at least 30 days prior to the February 28 due-date for the grant as required by the grant application. Instead, the plans were submitted on Feb. 13 and approved by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Feb. 27.

The mistake cost the county a 20 point deduction in each application. The point reduction lost the county about $150,000 in funding for Camp 8 Dam and contributed, with other point deductions, for Chelsea Lake Dam losing about $120,000 in grant funding.

Taylor County is appealing the points ruling, but the project engineer told members of the county’s forestry committee last week that they just missed that deadline in the grant application.

Faced with a $240,860 total cost for Chelsea Lake Dam and $322,720 for Camp 8, the forestry committee members face tough choices. They can proceed with the projects using county funds, apply for a 100% funded grant to remove the dams or wait and resubmit the projects during the next grant cycle in 2022.

Taylor County must look to the future when it comes to making decisions about the fates of the Chelsea Lake Dam and Camp 8 Dam and this may include the need to bite the bullet and do the needed work entirely with county funds. The county has the money on hand to complete both its portion of the Miller Dam project and the entire Chelsea Lake project. Holding off on making a decision on the Camp 8 project until there is a chance to reapply in 2022 makes sense and allows the county time to build up additional reserves from logging revenue in the county forest to fund the dam work.