Major debris removal at Lake Delhi site - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Major debris removal at Lake Delhi site

Volunteers remove major debris Sunday in the Lake Delhi area of the Maquoketa River Volunteers remove major debris Sunday in the Lake Delhi area of the Maquoketa River

Volunteers launched a major debris removal effort Sunday in the waterway that used to be Lake Delhi.

That stretch of the Maquoketa River is littered with docks, boat lifts and various pieces of what are now scrap metal. That's been the case ever since heavy rain caused the Lake Delhi dam to fail in July 2010, sending water surging down the Maquoketa River. Boats, docks, lifts and other lakefront equipment were damaged.

Those in charge of the clean-up and recovery efforts say the clean-up is far from over.

This major debris removal effort comes 14 months after the dam break.

At this time last year, many property owners in the Lake Delhi area were wondering whether there would be any government assistance with the clean-up.

Also, the shoreline was still so muddy in the fall of 2010, heavy equipment couldn't easily access major debris. Now, clean-up coordinator Brian Hughes said Sunday at the work site, things are looking a lot different.

"I think many people on the lake were hoping that either the DNR or FEMA or somebody from the government was going to come in and, you know, clean up the river and help with all the flood damage," Hughes said.

"As discussions went with all of that, it was just very apparent that wasn't going to happen, so it was really a matter of us just taking it on ourselves."

Hughes led a crew of about 12 people in removing some major debris from the Maquoketa River, including mangled boat lifts and docks.

Todd Gifford was one of the volunteers.

"Right now, fall going into early winter is a great time to do it, before the freeze, definitely," Gifford said of the clean-up effort. "Things are drying up. The water's down. There's not as much precipitation."

Down river from the action, area resident Tony Woodruff was doing some debris removal of his own. He's one of many neighbors who have been trying to clean up what they can.

"The water came through here so hard and so fiercely that it goes on below the dam, like, miles," Woodruff said, describing the scene. "I mean, this is pretty cleaned up right now compared to what it was. It was like a typhoon went through here."

Woodruff said he's encouraged to see the major debris removal effort by the crew of volunteers.

Hughes said Sunday's effort was the first of many.

"It seems like we've got a good method now," Hughes said. "Now it's just going to be putting together the plan for getting the rest of the stuff out of the lake over however many weekends it takes."

"It's a public lake, and we need to get this thing ready to go," Gifford said.

Some of the debris the volunteers remove may be sold for scrap metal, to compensate for fuel costs. Several people brought large equipment for the work site.

Anybody that either wants to assist in the clean-up process or has some large debris that needs removing due to the dam break can contact Hughes. His e-mail address is

The volunteers scoured about one-third of a mile of shoreline Sunday.

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