JCCB survey presents inaccuracies

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

     The Jones County Conservation Board is sending out a survey asking residents for their opinion on the fate of the Monticello Maquoketa River Dam. While I appreciate that the JCCB wishes to obtain the public sentiment on this issue, and that Friends of the Mon Maq Dam have acquiesced to the survey, it makes statements of questionable accuracy and fails to provide relevant information about the dam.

     First, the estimates for removal of the dam are almost too low. As I noted in a memorandum provided to the DNR in 2017: “Between January 2016 and August 2017, the cost estimates for the dam removal project skyrocketed 80 percent from $1 million, as estimated by Brad Mormann, JCCB Conservation Director at a public meeting on Jan. 28, 2016, to $1.8 million, as reported at the Aug. 24, 2017 Jones County Conservation Board meeting. [4] There is no reason to believe this increase in costs won’t continue.”

     Indeed, the survey’s Alternative B seems to be a restatement of the project approved by JCCB on Aug. 24, 2017, i.e. Dam Removal with Constructed 3- to 4-foot-tall Boulder Riffle and Habitat Features. Now the high estimate is $2,190,000, a 21 percent increase in 14 months. The public needs to be informed that, based on past experience, even the high estimates for dam removal may not be sufficient.

     Second, the costs for saving the dam, based on potential future repairs, are grossly inflated with respect to both “estimated costs” and “long-term maintenance costs.” The survey claims that if the dam is saved, the county may choose “fixing a breached levee extending south of the dam and repairing concrete, [which] would range is cost from $400,000 to $1.2 million. Engineer-recommended long-term maintenance costs are highest compared to other options.”

     With respect to the levee, it is impossible to believe that removing trees and replacing soil, as opposed to replacing the entire levee with a new concrete structure, would approach anywhere near $400,000. Where is the evidence of actually needed concrete repairs?

     While commenting on comparative “long-term maintenance costs,” the survey fails to state that even the inflated “estimated costs” of saving the dam are the lowest of any alternative.

     In 2016, the Office of the State Archaeologist found: “[The dam’s] integrity of design, materials, and workmanship also remain high. The dam appears today essentially as it did when it was first constructed, and it is not known to have undergone any major repairs or other changes.”

     I am aware of no one who can identify even $1 of expenditures on dam maintenance and repair since the JCCB took possession in 1969.

     In light of past experience, the most accurate statement for both “estimated costs” and “long-term maintenance costs” for saving the dam would probably be: “Lowest relative to other alternatives.”

     I would encourage anyone seeking more information on the problems with removing the dam to visit https://friendsmonmaqdam.com/about-us and download the memo to the DNR and legislators.


Donald W. Bohlken

Indianola, Iowa



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