116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The view from Interstate 380 looking down towards Cedar Lake and Alliant Energy's Sixth Street Generating Station appears to be one of relative calm.
The station, which was decommissioned after being flooded in 2008, remains dormant but intact, while the nearby lake is still shrouded by concerns of what pollutants may or may not lurk in the water.
However, work continues inside the plant, and parks officials say the lake has naturally balanced itself allowing residents to venture onto the waters in man-powered watercraft.
“The cost goes up as time goes on. We are trying to move quickly,” said Doug Kopp, the Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Alliant Energy. “We look at the site from a holistic way. What type of things need to be done and what is the process? We consider environmental aspects… we believe (the plant) is a demolition situation.”
Alliant finished removing all non-structural asbestos from the facility in December, and are currently in the process of identifying if any equipment pieces are worth selling, Kopp said.
The selling process, Kopp said, will take an unknown amount of time. That means the demolition time frame is an unknown, he said.
Once demolished, Alliant does not have future plans for the site, Kopp said.
“Whether we would ever build anything there again, I do not foresee that right now,” he said.
The future of the Cedar Lake area - much of which is owned by Alliant and leased to the city for recreational use - remains important to many within the city. How successful the city is in revitalizing the area depends in part on the quality of water, which Sven Leff, the city's parks and recreation director, says is frequently misunderstood.
“(Cleaning up) is a natural process where the staff at the DNR said let nature do it's thing and it will work out,” Leff said. “It has cleaned itself up and is open to kayakers and canoes.”
Data provided to the city by the DNR shows that levels of chlordane in catfish and carp caught in the lake have dropped dramatically since 2002, and Leff said he is hopeful that the fishing ban will be lifted in the next year.
And many hope there are other signs pointing to Cedar Lake becoming a natural oasis just feet from the concrete of downtown.
“It is such a great asset because of its location,“ said Felicia Wyrick, a member of the city's River Recreation Commission. “There is a lot of activity on the trail, and evident by the opening of the new restaurant right along the trail, obviously business owners have determined that they have a viable market there.”
Wyrick is referring to restaurateur Marty Hoeger's new venture, the Sag Wagon Deli & Brew on Shaver Road NE, scheduled to open this summer.
But Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said he is hopeful the restaurant is not an anomaly, and that it begins a process of economic development.
“I am happy to have something that is a little more on the retail side, because around there, it is all heavy industrial, so it is not really set up for a commercial area where people will go and spend money at a restaurant or shop,” he said. “So this is the first test for that area. It is really going to cater to the bicycle crowd.”
But one former parks and recreation commissioner and Cedar Rapids city council member says one restaurant and some natural balancing of pollutant levels will not be enough to raise the Cedar Lake area to prominence, and he wants to see a more concerted effort to do so from all parties involved.
“The window of opportunity for revitalizing the lake is now. We now know the EPA and DNR have experience in how to do this,” said Dale Todd. “The model is out there. This isn't the first power plant that has shut down or first lake with an environmental issue. As a community we need to say it is time to make this a priority and get it done.”