Though several hurdles must yet be cleared, reconstruction of the washed-out Lake Delhi dam likely will begin this spring, according to lake district officials.
“This has definitely gone slower than we’d have liked, but it’s looking good for a spring start on phase 1,” the repair of the original concrete portion of the dam, said Steve Leonard, president of the board of trustees of the Combined Lake Delhi Recreational Facility and Water Quality District.
Phase 2, construction of an adjacent earthen dike and spillway, could be undertaken concurrently if the Maquoketa River flow remains manageable, said Pat Colgan, a retired civil engineer and volunteer coordinator of the rebuild effort.
Several issues remain to be resolved — including a fish ladder, flood plain easements and permits from the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources — but both Leonard and Colgan expect all the outstanding puzzle pieces to fall into place in a timely manner.
“With so many variables, including the weather and regulating agencies, it’s impossible to predict when the refilling of the lake might begin,” Leonard said.
In theory, at least, that process could begin as early as this fall, he said.
As a condition for a $5 million appropriation to help restore Lake Delhi, the Legislature required the district to submit plans to improve public access and to reduce pollution and improve the lake’s water quality by addressing district residents’ septic systems.
The DNR initially rejected both plans, which have since been updated and resubmitted.
The DNR has accepted the updated water quality plan, and Lake Delhi officials hope the revised public access plan will address DNR concerns.
The DNR said it would require the district to install and maintain at least one public beach and one public boat ramp, each of which will be free to the public and include access from a state or county road, adequate parking and modern restroom facilities.
The revised plan, developed in cooperation with the DNR and several Delaware County departments, calls for a new recreational complex near the county-owned Turtle Creek Recreation Area. Accessible by county road, it would feature an additional two-lane boat ramp, parking for more than 50 vehicles, a new beach, public restrooms and additional shoreline access for observation and angling.
Cost estimates have yet to be completed, but lake officials said work is under way on an application for a state grant that would require a 25 percent local match.
The lake district’s revised wastewater treatment systems plan is “adequate … to reduce pollution and increase water quality at Lake Delhi,” DNR Director Chuck Gipp said in a Dec. 6 letter.
The plan calls for a wastewater treatment inventory of all lake district properties. Two pilot mailings to residents have enabled the district to fine-tune the inventory process, Leonard said.
The DNR and the Delaware County Sanitation Department will jointly review the inventory and identify properties suspected of deficient or absent treatment. Those candidates will be required to have an inspection by a certain date.
Based on inspection results, the county will identify properties that may need septic system upgrades or replacements. The DNR and county will prioritize and schedule upgrades and replacements based on potential impact to wells, ground water and lake water, the density of properties and whether the system serves year-round or part-time residents.
Lake officials also have asked the DNR to waive its requirement that the dam include a means for fish to traverse the barrier.
Stanley Consultants of Muscatine, the design engineer for the project, estimates that it would cost about $2.4 million for a structure designed to facilitate fish passage over the 40-foot-high dam.
If the DNR grants the fish ladder waiver, Colgan said the lake district would likely be required to provide mitigating features elsewhere in the fishery.
Colgan said lake bed cleanup is another priority in preparation for the return of water.
“Most of the flood debris has been removed, but much of the lake bed has grown up to weeds and willow trees that will have to be cleared out,” he said.