Lake Delhi homeowners rebuild shorelines and lives - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lake Delhi homeowners rebuild shorelines and lives


The long process to restore Lake Delhi took another step forward Sunday afternoon.

Two years ago, the Lake Delhi dam failed under the pressure of flood waters from heavy rain. The dam break sent the water and contents of Lake Delhi - including boats and docks - crashing down the Maquoketa River.

There's a resigned weariness that has settled on many Lake Delhi homeowners who packed the auditorium at Maquoketa Valley High School in Delhi Sunday afternoon. The process of restoring the lake has stretched on for two years now.

JoAnn Jones and her husband Dick Jones lost their docks and two boats in the flood, plus their home took on water.

"We got a lot of damage and it was over my head inside the house," she said. "We just never assumed anything like that would ever, ever happen."

Jones joined the 250 lake property owners who heard from the Iowa DNR and the US Army Corps of Engineers about how to properly repair the walls that keep shoreline from eroding. Floodwaters damaged or completely wiped away many of those reinforcing structures.

Steve Leonard is president of the board of trustees for the lake taxing district.

"This seems like a very long time for folks, from 2010 in July, when the flood occurred and the devastation occurred here," he said.

The dam rebuild and lake restoration process has hit a temporary wall, Leonard said, as lake leaders negotiate with FEMA over eligibility for funds stemming from the 2010 and 2008 floods.

"We hope it's not going to push anything back," Leonard said. "The uncertainty, obviously, is there in terms of what processes we need to go through, what could be potentially eligible or not eligible for, but our goal is still to start the reconstruction process as early as this fall."

The rebuilding process is estimated to cost $12 million. Lake leaders want to wait for word from FEMA before moving forward with any construction.

Leonard and other lake property owners know full well there's no such thing as a quick fix.

"You look at Cedar Rapids, who, five years later, are still working through that. You look at other applicants working five, six, seven years later, and our goal is to get the restoration process started as soon as possible," Leonard said. "There's been such a large economic impact and people impact in this event."

Despite the long wait, people remain hopeful. Informational meetings like this help, some say.

"We had heard some of this before, but they're just reaffirming, and that's good," Jones said. "That's good."

The dam is currently still the property of the private Lake Delhi Recreation Association. Members voted Sunday afternoon to approve final details in transferring that title to the public lake taxing district. Leonard said the official transfer should happen later this month.

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