Lake Darling rebuild done backward
BRIGHTON (GTNS) — Due to the weather causing the ground to be wet, the renovation project at Lake Darling is being done backward.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries management biologist Chad Dolan said Thursday that while originally, the project would have removed sediment from the lake first, then move on to roadwork, the wet weather is now making the roadwork easier to do first. Boat ramps, parking lots and shoreline work also will be done while crews wait for the weather to take a turn for the better. He said the work would start as soon as possible. He said a large section of the roadway would be left bare to allow large pieces of construction equipment to access the area in order to complete the lake project.
Dolan said completion of the project is moving a bit quicker than it was during the winter. He said that the state park had been waiting on a permit to complete dredging work to remove the sediment from the lake. He said the park now has the permit and is waiting for the lake to dry out. He believes it will be at least July before work can begin. If the wet weather continues, crews may have to wait for winter to remove the sediment once the ground freezes.
“Now the project is really dependent on the weather,” Dolan said. “It has been raining up to this point. We have had a few nice days but things are still pretty wet. As soon as things dry up crews will be able to get started.”
He said construction crews have preliminarily began moving in equipment and supplies to get the project started when weather permits.
The project originated as a result of the poor water quality in Lake Darling. Dolan said the main reason for the quality was the poor watershed to lake ratio. As the project was being designed, the concrete spillway on the dam began to lose integrity.
“We decided we are going to have to draw the lake down to fix the dam anyway, so let’s remove most of the sediment that has come in over the years,” he said. “Things kind of developed even further from there. It was kind of an opportunity to improve the situation in the park. We had aging boat ramps and we had aging parking lots.”
The plan became to make improvements to the shoreline and the campground. There was also a huge push to improve the watershed because, Dolan said, without improvements the removal of the sediment from the lake would only be temporary.
The three-year project began five years ago. Dolan said there are many reasons the project had been delayed. He said weather is the reason for the majority of the delays, including several times that the lake refilled with water and construction crews had to wait for it to drain before work could continue. He also said there had been a permitting issue in which the engineers had thought a permit was in place that in fact wasn’t. He said crews had begun to remove sediment before the project was “red-flagged.”
While the original projected cost of the project had been $4.2 million, Dolan said the costs have increased from when the project began and he believes the total project will cost closer to $5 million. This figure includes all the improvements to the campground.
The project is being funded from several sources, including a federal grant from Lakes Restoration. Fish and Wildlife Trust Funds and Marine Fuel Tax funds have all been invested in the project.
Dolan said once the project is complete, Lake Darling will be so improved people won’t recognize it.
“The water quality of the lake will be much improved,” he said. “It should be much clearer.”