DNR considering removal of several small dams - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

DNR considering removal of several small dams

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BUCHANAN COUNTY (KWWL) -

A dozen Iowa dams, many in eastern Iowa, along streams and rivers are falling apart.  That's why the state DNR is considering tearing the dams down.  And some folks in one of those communities aren't too happy about the possibility of losing their dam.

The Littleton dam along the Wapsipinicon River in Buchanan County has been in place for more than 80 years.  At one time, it was a flour mill.  And now, it's a prime place for enjoying the outdoors.  So some are concerned of what might happen if the dam is torn down.

On a nice day, you're likely to find several people fishing in the Wapsi river beside the Littleton dam in Buchanan County.

"This dam was built in the late 20s, early 30s for fisherman," said Nancy Coventry, who wants the dam to be saved.

But the Iowa DNR is concerned the dam might not last much longer.  The concrete around the spillway is showing its age, with pieces missing and cracks.  Rather than making costly repairs, the DNR is considering removing the dam and replacing it with riffles, a series of rocks built at either part of or the entire height of the current dam.  Riffles could potentially allow more fish to travel through the Wapsipinicon's waters.

"Right now with the dam in the way, a lot of fish cannot move upstream.  The fish can come downstream.  They'll get washed over the dam, but they can't make that leap, up literally upstream and get in there is well," said Joe Wilkinson with the Iowa DNR.

While that could provide ecological and recreation benefits, people who have lived in the community for years are concerned about disturbing the dam.  And they believe private funds can  be raised to repair the dam, rather than allowing the DNR to tear it down.

"We have plenty of people all lined up if we have to repair the dam.  If they want to contribute to fixing it, fine.  This is a privately owner dam.  we want to keep it that way, and keep our people happy down here.  Because we have hundreds and hundreds of people coming down here to fish and camp," Coventry said.

But for now, the future of the dam remains uncertain.  The DNR will continue to collect public input about the proposals, and it will likely take a couple of years before any changes are made.

While the Littleton dam is a private structure, the DNR has purchased easement rights so it can make changes to the dam.  But it seems few, if any, people in the Littleton area want the structure removed.  In fact, Nancy Coventry's collected a petition with some 200 signatures of people who want to save the dam. 

The DNR is hosting a public input meeting about the future of the Littleton dam Thursday at 6:00 p.m. in the Fontana Park welcome center in Hazleton.

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