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Public dock program proposed at Lake Mitchell

Zach Dalrymple, of Mitchell, moves his boat toward shore after launching from the boat dock at Lake Mitchell Thursday afternoon. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Boaters who don't own land next to Lake Mitchell have long faced the hassle of hauling their boats back and forth to the lake.

Now, the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee wants to help.

At a meeting scheduled to take place on Monday before a regular City Council meeting at City Hall, the committee plans to hear public input on a proposal to start a public dock program at Lake Mitchell.

According to a draft of the proposal, anyone who lives in the city, or within 30 miles of the city limits, would be allowed to apply for a spot on a section of shoreline between the Sportsman's Club and the Sportsman's Boat Ramp, where they would be allowed to install a dock and store a boat.

Dusty Rodiek, the city's parks and recreation director, said those who took part in the program would have to pay an annual fee. In the draft of the proposal, the fees are set at $300 for Mitchell residents and $400 for non-residents. They would also be responsible for paying to have a dock built within specification set by the city and installed at the site, as well as maintaining the site and providing at least $300,000 of liability insurance for the dock.

"We're trying to do this at little or no cost to the city, but still provide an opportunity if somebody is interested," Rodiek said.

The program would be administered by the city's Parks and Recreation Department. If it receives positive feedback from the public, the program could be implemented later this year, Rodiek said.

Mark Puetz, a member of the committee, said the committee generally favors the public dock program, but still wants to hear public input on the project before making a final decision. The committee, Puetz said, typically favors expanding public access to the lake.

"This would be one way of expanding upon that opportunity," he said.

Jacob Myers and Zach Dalrymple, both of Mitchell, unloaded a boat Thursday afternoon at the Sportsman's Boat Ramp, a public boat ramp near the proposed public dock location.

Myers said he was surprised the city didn't have some type of public dock program already, given the number of people who use the lake for boating and other recreational activities.

In many cases, Myers said, the high cost of reserving a spot at a public or private marina limits the number of people who can take advantage of such programs.

"I think a slip is a luxury," Myers said. "Very few people I know have slips at marinas at all."

Myer and Dalrymple are both firefighters with the Mitchell Fire Division.

Shoreline work

A local firm is finalizing designs for a project meant to protect part of the eastern shore of Lake Mitchell, north of the existing spillway, from erosion.

According to Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson, work to replace rundown gabions -- wire baskets filled with rocks used to protect shoreline -- north of the spillway is generally scheduled for this summer, but no firm dates have been set. The city is working with SPN & Associates, a Mitchell-based engineering firm, on the project.

The work could include one or a combination of three options: rock riprap, which involves piling rocks to protect the shore from water erosion; concrete block matting, which involves concrete blocks cabled to the shore to protect it; and a vinyl seawall, which holds the soil back to keep it away from the water to prevent erosion.

The first phase of the project will cover approximately 275 feet of shoreline north of the spillway, though work could eventually reach all the way to Kibbee Park.

Concrete block matting is the cheapest of the three options, at an estimated cost of $173,000 for the first phase, and is the favored choice of the city at this point, Johnson said.

That option would also help maintain public access to that area of the shoreline, which is traditionally a popular fishing spot, Johnson said.

"You could walk on them," he said. "It would be a little more pedestrian friendly."

The city has budgeted $200,000 for the first phase of the project.

West End Bridge

The West End Bridge will be torn down this summer and rebuilt in a process expected to take nearly a year and cost about $1.54 million, according to Johnson.

The 75-year-old bridge crosses a narrow stretch of water where Firesteel Creek flows into the west side of Lake Mitchell. If construction begins in August or September, as is expected, the bridge will be totally closed to traffic until it reopens, likely in July 2015, Johnson said.

Anyone living north of the bridge on the north side of Lake Mitchell will be rerouted during construction to North Harmon Drive or National Guard Road to state Highway 37 as a way of getting to and from the rest of the city.

The city will pay for 20 percent of the total cost to replace the bridge, expected to be about $300,000, according to Johnson. The remainder of the cost will be paid for by federal funds allocated for bridge repair.

The length of the project will be due in part to several concrete beams that need to be built, a process that will take three to four months, Johnson said.

The new bridge, at 126 feet, will be slightly longer than the current bridge, at 122 feet, but both will be the same height, Johnson said.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation has set a tentative bid letting date for the project of June 4.