CEDAR RAPIDS — City Council member Ralph Russell said Tuesday it’s time to see if his council colleagues intend to take ownership of Cedar Lake near downtown from Alliant Energy.
His comment came at a meeting of the Cedar Lake Study Committee, of which Russell is chairman, and with a significant caveat: The city is apt to need to see what, if any, chemical toxins are part of the lake’s sediment before it moves to take ownership.
Even so, Russell said the council might decide its interest in the lake as soon as next month.
Dale Todd, president of the Friends of Cedar Lake and a committee member, said Russell’s willingness to put Cedar Lake on the agenda was “a big move.”
The Friends group has been pushing for redevelopment of the 115-acre lake for nearly two years. Surrounded by the popular Cedar River Trail, the lake sits in an industrial area and provided cooling water for Alliant Energy’s power plant. The plant was damaged in the 2008 flood and is being demolished.
The Friends’ plans have stalled around future ownership of the lake and whether the redevelopment needs to disturb its sediment.
The Friends have said the lake needs to be cleaned out because it is filling with material from the stormwater system, which flows into it, and with sediment from the Cedar River when the river floods into the lake.
Mary Meisterling, community relations manager for Alliant and a committee member, said many of the Friends’ plans seem they could be done without disturbing the lake bottom.
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But parks and recreation director Sven Leff said adding floating docks, for instance, would require an anchor into the lake bottom, which would not be permitted under Alliant’s current lease with city.
Meisterling said Alliant had no interest in keeping ownership. At the same time, she said Alliant did not want to participate in a costly environmental assessment of the lake bottom unless the city, county or other public entity indicates it wants to take ownership.
A month ago, Cedar Lake got good news when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources removed it from the state’s impaired waters list after water quality tests showed levels of the chemical toxins chlordane and PCBs had fallen to acceptable levels.
Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston, a committee member, said “there needs to be a realization” that some residents will object if local government decides to take ownership of the lake and spend public money on it.
Russell said he will ask the city’s staff to study work the Friends group has done to see if the city first needs to hold meetings with the public before the council votes on the issue.
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