With more than 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County, the highway department maintenance staff handle many water-related problems affecting county roads, including frequent stream backups caused by beaver dams and other obstructions. Culvert cleaning crews spend many hours manually unclogging culverts, which can be a dirty, dangerous, and labor-intensive job.
But the department’s new skid steer attachment, which safely removes large amounts of debris in minutes, has changed all that.
The Otter Claw, an expendable culvert cleaner, was developed by Otter Tail County highway maintenance workers Brody Bakken and Dennis Bosek to save time and enhance worker safety. The skid steer attachment can extend up to 15 feet, allowing the operator to easily and safely remove large amounts of debris in as little as 10 minutes from culverts, ditches, around bridges, and other hard-to-reach locations.
The original design of the Otter Claw, which taps into the hydraulic system of the skid steer, included a rotatable grapple claw fabricated from exhausted steel plow cutting edges. Its effectiveness was somewhat limited by a repeated need to manually adjust the orientation of the claw using a removable pin to set a new position. With a $6,000 grant from the Local OPERA Program, the Otter Tail County Highway Department developed an omnidirectional hydraulic swivel head, which improved the strength, durability, and ease of use of the Otter Claw.
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The OPERA program is sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and administered by Minnesota LTAP.