St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A bill that would provide funding for a major project at Silver Lake in Rochester was approved in the Minnesota House this afternoon.

The vote was 118-13 to pass the 2024 Legacy Budget Bill. The DFL House Caucus Media Service says the measure provides nearly $240 million for outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, along with arts and culture using about $193 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. A 3/8th of a cent state sales tax provides the revenue for the fund.

The measure includes more than $2.3 million for the proposed Silver Lake project. It calls for removing the existing dam that was built nearly 90 years ago as part of a Great Depression economic stimulus project and replacing it with a fixed dam that would feed water from the Zumbro River down channels to a series of cascading ponds.

Supporters say the change would benefit aquatic wildlife and provide new recreational opportunities, which could include kayaking on the channels and extending the recreational trails at Silver Lake under the North Broadway Bridge. The overall cost of the project has been estimated at about $5.5 million.

current Silver Lake Dam (City of Rochester)
current Silver Lake Dam (City of Rochester)

Opponents, including a group calling itself Save the Dam at Silver Lake, contend a fixed dam would make it more difficult to dredge the lake in the future and potentially could result in higher flood crests downstream. The group also complains the project would relocate the dam approximately 750 feet east of the current structure, which would eliminate that portion of the lake.

READ MORE: Rally for Silver Lake Dam Planned Ahead of Monday’s City Council Meeting

The State Senate is considering a nearly identical bill that also includes funding for the Rochester project. The Senate Finance Committee took action on the measure two weeks ago and recommended it for approval.

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Gallery Credit: Andy Brownell

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