Drilling at the Lake Delhi dam site - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drilling at the Lake Delhi dam site

A drill rig bores samples of rock at the Lake Delhi dam site A drill rig bores samples of rock at the Lake Delhi dam site

Drilling activity at the site of the Lake Delhi dam break had lake homeowners optimistic Monday.

This comes a little more than one year after heavy rains in July 2010 toppled the dam, sending the contents of Lake Delhi rushing down the Maquoketa River, leaving debris and devastation in its wake.

A drill rig is conducting tests as part of a $350,000 feasibility study, which is funded by the state. It includes a series of tests, all meant to determine the feasibility of rebuilding the dam.

The drill is the first step in this study, and project organizers call it a local morale booster.

The drilling rig is boring straight down into the sedimentary rock bed, upon which the dam was built in the 1920s. The rock samples will show contractors whether there are any fissures, cracks or other weaknesses in the foundation that would have to be filled before rebuilding the dam.

Steve Leonard is the president of the Combined Lake Delhi Recreational Facility and Water Quality District board of trustees. That's the group of seven trustees that's facilitating the studies and push to rebuild the Lake Delhi dam.

"This is exciting: to see progress, to see things happening," Leonard said. "People have waited a long time to see this momentum. And now it's started, it's here. We're going full steam ahead."

The study is fully funded, but the dam rebuild is not. The local Community Fund to Rebuild Lake Delhi has raised $1.48 million toward a new dam, with a goal of $3.5 million. The estimated cost of a new dam, however, is in the $12 million neighborhood.

In late July, Gov. Branstad vetoed $5 million the Iowa Legislature had earmarked for the rebuild of the dam, though Leonard said Monday the trustees are still seeking, "some help from the state."

"We're optimistic that the county's going to help participate," Leonard said. We've also been able to go out and add additional bonding capacity within our taxing district, so we're going to be looking to do that in November."

The Lake Delhi taxing district consists of the approximately 830 homes on or near the lake. The additional bonding capacity would apply just to those homeowners.

If passed, additional capacity would allow the district to tax members up to five percent of each homeowner's property value and, through that, raise up to about $6 million for the dam rebuild.

Those homeowners will have the chance to vote on that in November.

Meanwhile, the feasibility study is moving forward. Pat Colgan is the volunteer project facilitator for the study and a summer resident at the lake.

"We're doing all the type of work that is really required to make this a modern dam," he said.

Homeowners don't want to see another disaster, he said.

"I think it was a really devastating thing for a lot of people, and it's been a year since, so people, you know, have the right to feel down about that, but this is a very positive thing, and we have a great plan," Colgan said.

Organizers hope to complete the study by late November.

Leonard said, if all goes according to plan, construction on a new dam will begin in the spring and the water will be back in the fall of 2012.

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