Our position on the Lake Delhi impoundment

This week, an article appeared in the Des Moines Register describing the Iowa Whitewater Coalition’s opposition to providing state funds for rebuilding a dam on the Maquoketa River to restore Lake Delhi.  The Iowa Environmental Council signed a letter in support of the Coalition’s position.

Given the position of the proposed dam and the characteristics of the Maquoketa River, the Iowa Environmental Council is concerned that Lake Delhi did not meet criteria for sustainability other lakes in Iowa are expected to meet in order to be eligible for lake restoration funding.

“Before the dam failed, Lake Delhi was a small impoundment compared to the large area of land that drained into it,” explained Susan Heathcote, water program director at the Iowa Environmental Council.  “Because of that, the lake required frequent dredging, which Iowa’s taxpayers have helped fund through special legislative appropriations.  We’re concerned about continuing the flow of taxpayer dollars to a project as unsustainable as this one.”

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has an existing Lake Restoration Program which funds improvements to Iowa’s public lakes.  To be eligible for funds through that program, lake projects must be sustainable for 50 years.  As the Iowa Whitewater Coalition’s letter makes clear, Lake Delhi falls short of that standard:

“Most Iowa impoundments used as multipurpose reservoirs have ratios of 40 to 1 or less. The Lake Delhi impoundment ratio is 500 acres of watershed for each 1 acre of impoundment surface (223,630 acre watershed, 448 acre lake). This impoundment ratio means that dredging would be an ongoing necessity (5 year cycle predicted with increased need following flood events, $2,200,000 dredging cost for 2006 which was mostly negated by the floods of 2008).”

The DNR is currently working through a list of lake restoration projects which it carefully prioritized according to which projects would provide the most public benefit.  The Iowa Environmental Council believes the state should fulfill its existing commitments to improve public lakes before choosing to funnel more taxpayer dollars into an unsustainable new impoundment on the Maquoketa River.

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