‘Light at the end of the tunnel’Lake Darling construction put on hold this winter
BRIGHTON — After numerous setbacks, including one earlier this year that shut down construction on the Lake Darling project, Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries management technician Vance Polton hopes that 2013 may be the year the lake is refilled.
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.
“The light is at the end of the tunnel and you can see it,” he said. “They are having a meeting in Des Moines today about getting the last of the mess cleaned up as far as the bureaucratic part of it.”
He said that the lake and shoreline work had not had permits, but the engineers had told the construction crews that the project did have the permits. He said the Army Corp of Engineers found out and halted the project.
Polton said that crews could have rebuilt the roadways this year, but they would have been broken up from moving the construction equipment for the lake project over them.
If it is a wet year, Polton said, the crews might have to wait until next winter to complete some of the work.
“We should have one by this fall,” Polton said. “The best-case scenario is we continue the drought so we can get the work done. Then the lake still has to fill up. Best case, you are talking about it raining as soon as we are done.”
He explained that the watersheds have to fill up before water makes it into the lake.
Polton said that the project is almost complete. He said there is about 20 days’ worth of digging left in the bottom of the lake. After that is complete, the shorelines will be shaped and two new boat ramps will be installed. A fishing trail will be installed, as well as the new roadways. He said the shoreline work is easier to do without water in the lake.
“Kind of the frustration part is that if we had gotten a permit this winter, which is what we were hoping for, it would have been done already,” he said. “It will take them longer to come and set up than it will to finish it.”
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.