Public dam option no longer on the table

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

     Those attending last week’s Mon-Maq Dam public meeting were presented with the final two options the Jones County Conservation Board (JCCB) voted on to proceed: Option 1 was no action, leaving the dam intact and Option 2 involved removal of 49 percent of the dam with no water running over the dam. The latter option had been previously offered as a so-called compromise at the public meeting in April 2019, and was overwhelmingly opposed in each breakout group. Yet this became the JCCB’s preferred choice to move forward.

     The next step in the process will be an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the efforts of both options. Decision-making for the fate of the dam is no longer entirely in the hands of the JCCB, but rests partially with consulting parties, which include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Because the Mon-Maq Dam is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act must be adhered to and the federally mandated consultation process completed. A formal legal agreement between USFWS and SHPO must be reached before the project can move forward.

     USFWS, together with the Iowa DNR and the Jones County Historic Preservation Commission, strove after April 2019 to reach a real compromise in the spirit of the law that would enjoy public support. In October they agreed to a compromise to retain 66 percent of the dam with water flowing over it and grade control in the opened channel for fish passage. Though USFWS instructed Brad Mormann to tell the JCCB that the consulting parties had discussed it as a “possible” compromise and he withheld information that might have led the JCCB to include this option in the Environmental Assessment. It appears, therefore, that the Section 106 process has been circumvented.

     At the 2019 public meeting, citizens showed potential support for the compromise of saving 66 percent of the dam with water flowing over it. It is unfortunate that this compromise was not presented to the JCCB as instructed prior to their vote in November. The public should be aware that an opportunity to gain public support, unite all parties, and end the fight in our community was blown.

     I encourage everyone to send a note or e-mail to the Environmental Assessment and let them know what YOU think: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, ATTN: Mon-Maq Dam EA, 555 Lester Ave., Onalaska, WI 54650; MON_MAQ_DAM_EA_Comments@gws.gov.

Cindy Brokens

Scotch Grove, Iowa

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