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DNR tells Lake Delhi leaders to firm up plans

October 3, 2012

DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will hang on to state funds to rebuild Lake Delhi until leaders of the effort firm up plans for public access and water quality.

The 9-mile lake on the Maquoketa River in northeast Iowa was drained when a dam collapsed during flooding in 2010.

The state is pitching in $5 million to restore the lake, but the DNR rejected plans submitted in June to improve public access and to reduce pollution and improve water quality by upgrading district septic systems.

"Their plan centered around slightly improving what is already there," said Mike McGhee, a DNR lake restoration staffer. "It's a very minimal public access now. They wanted to address it in the future."

Steve Leonard, president of the Combined Lake Delhi Recreation and Water Quality District, the lake's governing body, said he's happy to have the agency's feedback.

"We need to get the lake back and restore the area's economic development potential. As that process continues, we can continue to work on the public access and water quality requirements," Leonard said.

In a Sept. 20 letter to Leonard and the taxing district, DNR Director Chuck Gipp said the plans were "not adequate."

He said the money was appropriated to his agency and that certain requirements needed to be met before it would be released.

Leonard and state Rep. Lee Hein of Monticello said they aren't sure the agency has the authority to withhold the money.

McGhee said the DNR will require the district to include at least one public beach and one boat ramp accessible by a county or state road, both with modern restrooms and adequate parking.

The department also wants two fishing accesses, one at or near the dam, and a route for canoes and kayaks.

Hein, a Republican, said it's been months since the legislation passed, and the DNR should have raised the issues earlier.

Hein added that some of the agency's demands were never discussed by lawmakers.

The agency has also requested a full inventory of septic tanks in the area. Leonard said no problems have been noted since the lake drained, and pointed out that state law requires a septic tank to be inspected before a property can be sold.

Just rebuilding the dam and restoring the lake could cost $20 million, Leonard said.

Leonard remains optimistic that construction will begin next spring and be done by the end of the year.



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