Lake Delhi restoration process takes a step forward - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lake Delhi restoration process takes a step forward

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Shot from Lake Delhi's currently-dry lake bed, May 2012 Shot from Lake Delhi's currently-dry lake bed, May 2012
DELAWARE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Lake Delhi-area homeowners and business owners are feeling optimistic this weekend, after the Iowa Legislature moved Friday toward securing state funding for the restoration of the lake.

In July 2010, heavy rains caused the Lake Delhi dam to fail, sending the lake's water and boating equipment crashing down the Maquoketa River.

Leaders within the lake's taxing district of some 830 homes, called the Lake Delhi Combined Recreational Facility and Water Quality District, estimate a price tag of $11.9 million to rebuild the dam, plus another several million dollars for lake restoration projects such as dredging.

Friday, the Iowa House and Senate, in the form of a conference committee, reached a compromise that would commit $5 million in state money toward the project: $2.5 million each fiscal year for the next two years. That would come out of the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) budget.

Rep. Lee Hein (R-Monticello) is on the conference committee and in favor of restoring the lake.

"To me, it was a no-brainer to spend the five million dollars now," Hein said. "Then, plus, not only do we have the dam but we have the increase in the sales tax and the economic activity that's going on around the district, or around Manchester and Delhi."

Property values directly impact the amount of money the local school district gets, and the loss of the lake has impacted those values.

"With the values going down around the lake, it drops it down into what we call probably a property-poor district, so that increases the dollars the state has to put in every year to the Maquoketa Valley School District," Hein said.

Beside possible state funding for the dam rebuild and lake restoration, taxing district leaders have already secured more than $10 million in local and county funds. $1.7 million has come from private donations. Leaders secured $6 million in November, when property owners within the taxing district voted to pass a bond issue. Another $3 million came in March, when Delaware County supervisors voted to issue a bond.

Steve Leonard is the president of the Lake Delhi Combined Recreational Facility and Water Quality District board of trustees.

"We're re-energized from the community coming back and getting restored," Leonard said. "We're re-energized from the fact the school district's going to be able to operate under their current budget. We're energized from the fact that businesses won't have to go out of business that are on the verge of going out of business."

One business that has faced an uncertain future is Hartwick Marina. It used to sit on Lake Delhi, before the dam breach returned the lake to its original river state.

Chris Stender owns the marina.

"It's rather depressing to look at it," he said, surveying the river while standing on the exposed, sandy lake bed. "The last couple years has been pretty stressful, honestly, with the lack of business. We've been hanging on and getting by. And now with the news from the state, of course, we're excited and we have no intentions of going anywhere."

If all goes according to taxing district leaders' plans, Stender could see a lake again for his marina by fall of 2013.

The budget item could wind up on Governor Branstad's desk for his signature as early as the end of this week.

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