Conservation board fully narrows down dam alternatives

The JCCB narrowed down the alternatives for the Mon Maq Dam in Monticello. This option leaves 51 percent of the dam in place, with no water flowing over the structure. Fish habitat and river access paddlers would be established where the dam was removed.

This image shows the Mon Maq Dam site as it looks today. This no-action alternative is one of two being considered by the JCCB. (Images courtesy of Jones County Conservation)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The Jones County Conservation Board is moving ahead on finalizing its plans for the future of Mon Maq Dam. 

The board met on Nov. 13, and approved two concept alternatives on a 2-1 vote. (Board member Russ Von Behren was absent.) Board members Dave Tabor and Megan Manternach voted for the two alternatives; board member Dean Zimmerman was opposed. 

The two alternatives include a no-action plan that leaves the dam as is, with no maintenance or repairs. No dollar amount was placed on this option. 

Conservation Ranger John Klein reminded the board that no action does come at a price. “If you say you’re not going to maintain it for any reason,” said Klein, “the responsibility (of the dam) solely lies with you as the owner.” 

The other alternative leaves 51 percent of the dam in place with fish habitat. This comes at a cost of $1.5 to $1.6 million. Conservation Director Brad Mormann suggested adding a sidewalk as well, but that could be discussed in the near future. 

The board had four options to consider before narrowing it down. The additional include completely taking the dam out, which could cost between $900,000 and $1.5 million; and leaving a portion of the dam in place with a sloping-rock structure. This would have cost $2.5 to $3 million. 

The alternative favored by the board fully reconnects the Maquoketa River system. The pool of water will no longer exist below the 51 percent of the dam that remains. The remainder of the dam will exist for historical purposes. This option also allows fish and aquatic life passage, paddler passage, motorized boat passage, all during all or most water flows. This eliminates the hydraulic roller (drowning machine), and adds fish habitat rock structures to attract fish to the site for angling purposes. 

Mormann said with the additional information from the dam inspection this summer, the board has more details to consider when making a decision. The environmental evaluation also lists positive and negative effects associated with each alternative. 

Mormann further shared that U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Jones County Historic Preservation Commission were willing to compromise and support the alternative that leaves 51 percent of the dam in place. Friends of Mon Maq Dam, represented by Tom Osborne at the meeting, was only willing to support the “no action” alternative. 

“Leaving a portion of the dam in place will have to adverse effects on the structure,” explained Mormann. 

Zimmerman said he wasn’t in favor of an alternative that did not leave a pool of water below the dam. 

“Having no flow over the dam means you’ve lost the attraction for the local people,” said Zimmerman. “A stagnant pool will need to be flushed out. You’ll turn a flood-torn area into a mudflap. It will need a lot of maintenance versus the advantages. We need to keep some of the aesthetics with water over the dam.” 

Furthermore, Zimmerman said the viewing platform would serve no purpose if the water did not continue to flow over the dam. 

Tabor questioned Osborne, asking why the Friends group would not support any other alternative. 

“Early on, the board (Friends) felt they could live with 66 percent of the remaining with water flowing over the rest of it,” said Osborne. “But we never officially voted one way or another. Our members support no action, leaving the dam as is. We’ve negotiated in good faith, but we’re not required to find a compromise as a non-profit, non-government agency.” 

“It makes most sense to move forward with option number two (leaving 51 percent of the dam in place),” voiced Tabor. Manternach agreed. 

“A number of our stakeholders support it,” continued Tabor. “It’s the preferred option.” 

Zimmerman asked if there was another option out there that has not yet been devised. Mormann said that would involve more time and resources. 

“I think we need to keep this process moving,” said Manternach. “We’ve been down this road now a couple of times.” 

Zimmerman disagreed. “I just don’t think we’re there yet.” 


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