Lake Darling work progresses
BRIGHTON — After having rebid the construction work to renovate Lake Darling, work is progressing at the state park with a due date to allow water into the lake next spring.
The paved road leading into the boat ramp and the four seasons lodge has been torn out, as pieces of construction equipment are moving dirt to shape the new ramp and shore line. The main contractor is bringing in equipment this week. They will get started laying concrete and replacing concrete before the weather gets too cold. They will also be working on the shoreline and installing the fishing trail.
“The plan right now is that we will close the gate on April 15 (2014),” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries management technician Vance Polton. “After that it is up to Mother Nature to put the water in.”
He said that the drought most of Iowa has experienced for the last couple of years has dried up Honey Creek, the main source for the lake. Polton said that the ponds and watershed has to fill back up and the creek has to get enough water in it to flow before Lake Darling will begin filling up. He believes it will take quite a while for the lake to fill. He also said that the DNR will stock fish as soon as there is enough water in the lake.
Polton said the rebidding of the project had gone off without a hitch. He said with the two rebids, the park will save about $600,000 from what the original contractor had wanted to rebid the project for. He said part of the savings is due to one main contractor doing the work so projects won’t have to be scheduled around a second contractor.
If all goes well, Polton said, the road would be replaced, along with the culverts, before winter. Workers will then move into shoreline work before the ground freezes during the winter. Once the ground freezes, workers will move into the lake bottom to remove sediment. Workers will also finish some of the shoreline work this fall.
“As long as we don’t start getting six or eight inches or rain or something we should be good,” Polton said. “Last week’s ½ inch of rain didn’t even slow them down a day because it absorbed into the ground by noon. Really any small events aren’t going to hurt anything. Snow is not going to hurt anything. It will be the uncommon or big events that we will have an issue with. As dry as the lake bed is now, it would take a lot of rain to get it to the point they can’t dredge.”
After draining the lake in 2008 to dredge silt from the bottom and reconfigure it, in conjunction with projects to improve the surrounding Lake Darling State Park, the initial plan was that the lake would be open in 2010. Polton said no work could be done in 2009-10 due to heavy rains flooding the construction areas and making the ground inaccessible by large equipment, and the project was slowed down.
“We basically lost two years due to the rain,” he said.
In 2011, construction crews started on the new dam. Polton said even then it took time to drain the spillway. Crews also hoped that the ground would freeze enough to bring large earthmoving equipment into the unpaved construction areas. When the 2011-12 winter was unseasonably warm, it halted construction. The ground never froze enough for the equipment — which can weigh over 100,000 pounds — to run on the soil.
Polton said that the project has been held up due to a problem with permits. Calling 2012 “the wasted year,” Polton said that work had been started before permits had been issued for the work. The permits, he said, were to remove soil from the area that had been dredged from the lake. He hopes permits can be issued in March, but said that spring is not the best time to do landscape construction of this type.
While the original projected cost of the project had been $4.2 million, Dolan said that the costs have increased from when the project began and he believes the total project will cost closer to $5 million. This figure includes all the improvements to the campground.
The project is being funded from several sources, including a federal grant from Lakes Restoration. Fish and Wildlife Trust Funds and Marine Fuel Tax funds have all been invested in the project.