Key federal permit advances Lake Delhi restoration

Orlan Love
Published: January 29 2014 | 3:32 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:51 am in
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Lake Delhi officials on Wednesday received a long-awaited federal permit that clears the way for reconstruction of the washed-out Lake Delhi dam.

Work will begin in early spring, said Steve Leonard, president of the board of trustees of the Combined Lake Delhi Recreational Facility and Water Quality District, the governing body of an area that sustained multimillion-dollar flood damage in 2008 and 2010.

“Our goal is to get all the work done this year, with the lake to be refilled in early 2015,” less than five years after heavy rains washed out the dam on July 24, 2010,Leonard said.

Lake Delhi officials had hoped to start construction last year but were stymied by the lack of the Army Corps of Engineers permit required for phase 1 of the project – repair and upgrade of the flood-damaged powerhouse.

With that permit in hand, trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Maquoketa Valley Schools in Delhi to review and possibly approve bid specifications for phase 1.

“We’re hoping bid requests can go out Tuesday to contractors,” Leonard said.

The district is still working with the Department of Natural Resources to secure a required permit for phase 2, construction of an earthen dam and spillway. That project, too, is expected to begin this spring, Leonard said.

Although hydropower generation is “off the table for now,” Leonard said the powerhouse will be repaired in such a manner that will not prevent future hydropower generation.

Leonard said hydropower revenue has never been a part of the lake rebuilding funding formula, which includes about $5 million from the state, $3 million from Delaware County, about $6 million in a self-imposed property tax on residents and about $1.5 million in private donations.

Lake Delhi officials had been working with Modern Hydro of Waupaca, Wis., to determine whether the dam's potential output and current electricity rates justify the cost of refurbishing the long-idle power plant.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008 issued a three-year preliminary permit allowing Modern Hyrdro to study the project’s feasibility. When that permit expired, Modern Hydro applied for a second preliminary permit, which FERC denied, asserting that Modern Hyrdro had not pursued the project “with due diligence and in good faith.”

Phase 2 of the project, construction of the earthen dam and spillway, will not include a means to promote fish passage, as required by state law.

In waiving that requirement, DNR Director Chuck Gipp, in a letter last February to Leonard, said spending available funds for fish passage at Lake Delhi would not be consistent with state lake restoration priorities.

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