Mon Maq Dam survey shows support for saving dam

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

     The survey sponsored by the Jones County Conservation Board demonstrates that the public supports saving the Mon Maq Dam.

     The response to “Do you think the county should spend local taxpayer and/or privately raised money to add to the $800,000 in federal and state funds already raised to remove the dam and replace it with rapids or habitat features?” was 50 percent NO, 39 percent YES, and 11 percent NO ANSWER. The survey concluded: “Results are statistically valid and show majority of Jones County voters do not think the county should spend local taxpayers and/or privately raised money in addition to the $800,000 in federal and state funds already raised to remove the dam and replace it with rapids or habitat features.”

     Common sense tells us that federal and state taxpayers dollars should also not be wasted on destroying the dam.

     With respect to priorities, the survey administrator concluded: “Data shows ‘Fishing and Angler Access’ and ‘Leave the dam the way it is’ had the highest priority from Jones County respondents.” The category “Repair and maintain the dam” also shows unequivocal support for saving the dam. The respective scores are: “leave the dam the way it is” (557); “Repair and maintain the entire dam” (322); and “Fishing and angler access” (547). Given the total score of 879 for the two alternatives directly favoring saving the dam, it is clear that has the highest combined ranking for priorities related to the Maquoketa River.

     It should be noted that the “fishing and angler access” is consistent with “leaving the dam the way it is” as, at a public meeting on Aug. 24, 2017, JCCB member Dave Tabor admitted the anglers were one of the major groups opposing removal of the dam. Indeed it is common knowledge that fishing is good both upstream and downstream from the dam.

     These are the most significant and clear-cut results from the survey. There is some later commentary which suggests a tie between Alternative A “Take No Action” and Alternative C “Dam Removal With Constructed Habitat Features.” This result is not only contrary to the results in questions 2 and 4, but may be influenced by the survey’s underestimates for the cost of dam removal and inflated estimates for dam repair and maintenance.

     As I pointed out 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 JCCB meeting. 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 in 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.”

     The actual known expenditures on dam maintenance and repair since the JCCB took possession in 1969 are zero dollars.

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

     The JCCB is sponsoring a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 4 at the Durgin Pavilion at Camp Courageous. Be there to remind the Board that this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Save the Dam!


Donald W. Bohlken

Indianola, Iowa



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