Critics & supporters speak up about restoring the Lake Delhi Dam - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Critics and supporters speak up about restoring the Lake Delhi Dam


Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is supporting the effort to rebuild the Lake Delhi Dam, but not everyone is a fan.

Branstad's budget for the next two years includes $5 million to rebuild the dam that was destroyed in July 2010 after some heavy rains.

One critic of the restoration project is Peter Komendowski, a board member of the Iowa Whitewater Coalition (IWC).

The IWC is a group advocating for Iowa's rivers. The coalition's website said it's mission is to "reconnect Iowa's rivers for safety, for aquatic species, for riverbank wildlife habitat, and for high-quality recreation experiences."

Komendowski sees not rebuilding the lake as an opportunity.

"It's not only impaired the flow of the natural river and the biodiversity, but it also impairs the watershed that helps support healthy agriculture," Komendowski said. "When it was built nobody knew of these things so it was innocently built…but now we know you can't do that. That there's a reason there's a river there and not a lake and when you change what nature needs to function effectively, you can create impairments and impediments."

Komendowski said he empathizes with the landowners, but he wants to see a different solution to the area's economic problems.

"I know it's a lot to ask [of the landowners], but in America today, in order to have a healthy legacy for our children, [someone] needs to make sacrifices like that of your personal pleasure for the greater good," Komendowski said.

"I don't see this as a great good—changing from a lake back into a river. I think when you speak to all the businesses that have been impacted and the number of employees and layoffs that will occur, if this does not come back and the regional economic impact," Steve Leonard with the Lake Delhi Combine Recreation and Water Quality Taxing District said.

Leonard says this has "severely impacted" the entire community. He points out the land values dropped 38 percent, and the decline in land values means less tax revenue coming in, which also means less money for needed services in the community.

One of those services is education.

"That unexpected drop is in an area of approximately $700,000 a year, and that means quite a bit to a small Maquoketa Valley School District," Leonard said. "In addition what folks need to understand is the fact that with school district losing so much revenue in the school aid formula, the state will actually have to pick up the tab on an annual basis of anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. And that's forever, that the state would have to pay the school district."

Leonard said a recent economic study found more than a million dollar decline in annual spending. In other words, local businesses are getting less business. The economy that was once built on the recreation of a lake is now gone.

"This is not just lake homeowners being impacted. We have such few public lakes in the state of Iowa. We don't want to give people a reason to leave the state of Iowa," Leonard said.

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