Mon Maq Dam decision is tabled; meeting to come

The future of Mon Maq Dam will be decided at a yet-to-be-scheduled future meeting of the Jones County Conservation Board. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

About 40 people attended the meeting of the Jones County Conservation Board July 17, during which the fate of Mon Maq Dam was debated, but not finalized. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

     A decision on the future of Mon Maq Dam was pending, then rescheduled, then postponed, in a series of Jones County Conservation Board developments last week.                

     The board held its regular meeting on Monday, July 17 at the Central Park Nature Center, during which one of the agenda items was “Mon Maq Dam Project: Project Direction Determination.”

     At issue was whether or not the board, which has been working on plans regarding the dam off and on for 10 years, would ultimately decide on its current plan ­– to remove 90 percent of the dam, leaving a portion of it intact on the north end.

     The idea would be to allow a continuous flow of the Maquoketa River, and remove the need for portages around the dam.

     But with a large majority of the 40-some people in attendance Monday opposing dam removal, and with the results of a survey of county residents coming to light, the board decided to table the decision for a few more days to have more time to study the issue.

     “I’m willing to consider this a little longer,” said board member Russ VonBehren, who first suggested tabling the issue.

     Board members struggled to find a date when all would be available, but eventually scheduled a meeting for Friday, July 21. On Thursday, Mormann announced that the Friday meeting would be postponed. At press time, no new meeting date had been scheduled.

     Three people spoke formally at the Monday meeting. Harvey Johnson asked, among other things, why there has not been a bid on what it would cost to repair the dam.

     “The dam is in very good shape; but it needs a little tender loving care,” Johnson said.

     Mike Davies read from a prepared statement, asking the board to save the dam.

     “From the surveys that will be presented here tonight, it will become apparent that public opinion has shifted away from removing the dam,” Davies read.

     The statement went on to address some of the reasons that had been given to removing the dam. Among those was concern about future maintenance cost and liability to the county if the dam fails.

     “It could use some minor repairs but it has stood since it was built in 1841, withstanding 100-year floods and the dam breach at Delhi…Tearing the dam down because it might fail in the future will definitely deny future generations the benefit of experiencing the dam site.”

     James Krapfl, a member of the Jones County Historic Preservation Commission, brought forward a survey taken by the commission between July 1 and 14, polling people on which was the best of three options: preserving the dam, removing the dam to restore natural channel, and a compromise. The survey, which Krapfl acknowledged was not scientific, received 436 responses. 405 of those, or 93 percent, voted for preserving the dam.

     Several others spoke during the meeting against removing the dam. Some asked whether the issue could be put up for an election; others wondered why grants weren’t pursued with the idea of repairing, rather than tearing down, the dam.

     Others were concerned about the fishing, believing that it would be diminished, not improved, by dam removal.

     Jones County Conservation Director Brad Mormann repeatedly urged the board to act. The board has access to 11 grants totaling $2,031,487, but some of those may not be available if they are not utilized soon.

     “We have the funding there,” Mormann said. “If we delay, money will be an issue.”

     Mormann, in an email sent July 21, urged people to visit the county website to learn more about the project options. That site is


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