ARTICLE

Bill seeks $5 million to restore Lake Delhi dam

Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Epworth, sponsoring legislation

Water from the Maquoketa River flows through the breach in the dam at Lake Delhi on Sunday, July 25, 2010, in Delhi. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Water from the Maquoketa River flows through the breach in the dam at Lake Delhi on Sunday, July 25, 2010, in Delhi. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Lawmakers are being asked to put up $5 million for restoration of the Lake Delhi dam, which was destroyed by flooding nearly two years ago.

Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Epworth, has filed Senate File 2002 seeking two $2.5 million appropriations from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund to the Department of Natural Resources to rebuild the dam that formed Lake Delhi on the Maquoketa River in Delaware County.

Hancock sought funding last year, but Gov. Terry Branstad used his line-item veto authority to remove a part of a bill that expressed legislative support for future funding of the lake and dam reconstruction sometime in the future. At the time, Hancock said the governor’s action “boggles my mind” because the funding was not from taxpayer funds, but gambling revenue.

So he’s trying again this year. There was widespread support among legislators last year for funding the reconstruction and Hancock thinks he can make a stronger case this session.

Since last year, property owners around Lake Delhi have approved a substantial tax hike to help pay for rebuilding the dam that cost them their lakefront property. They approved issuing up to $6,091,104 in general obligation bonds to pay for the project.

That has been seen as a prerequisite for securing outside funding, including the state assistance.

Plans call for the dam to be rebuilt to “moderate hazard” specifications at a cost of about $10 million. The Department of Natural Resources has not signed off on the plan, but that specification was the recommendation of a state-funded engineering study by Stanley Consultants of Muscatine, using DNR criteria.

The current assessed value of property in the taxing district is $121.8 million. As a result of the dewatered lake, the assessed value will shrink by 38 percent to $75.5 million in the next fiscal year, meaning the debt limit will be reduced to $3.7 million.

“The people there are working so hard that I think the state needs to step up,” Hancock said. In addition to the bond issue, residents have launched a capital campaign. “They’ve proven to us that it’s time to be a partner.”

Hancock said the economic impact from the loss of the dam and recreational opportunities on the lake is being felt by area businesses and local governments.

He’s also encouraged by the fact Branstad has visited the area to see firsthand the physical damage caused by the loss of the dam and recreational opportunities on the lake as well as the economic impact on local businesses and governments.

“I feel pretty good about (the bill’s) chances,” Hancock said. “It’s on the radar.”SF 2002 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It has not been assigned to a subcommittee. So far, lobbyists are registered as “undecided” on SF 2002 except Iowa Rivers Revival, which registered in opposition.