Residents question Mon Maq Dam project

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Residents throughout Jones County, specifically Monticello, filled the Jones County Board Room the morning of July 25 for Conservation Director Brad Mormann’s discussion with the supervisors regarding Mon Maq Dam.

     Mormann said this has been an ongoing project for the Conservation Board over the past 10 years. in that timeframe, and more recently, the board has reviewed numerous options for the dam site, bringing ideas to the public’s attention as well.

     Mon Maq Dam was built in 1913-14. Mormann said the age of the dam is of utmost concern, as well as its lifespan in the years ahead.

     Before any comments were made, however, Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach commented that the board of supervisors does not dictate how the conservation board operates.

     “They know more about this than we do,” he said.

     Mormann outlined multiple options the conservation board has looked at thus far, with Option A being presented as something the board is favoring today.

     “It’s a compromise after hearing from the public,” said Mormann. “It allows fish access to remain, similar to what you have out there today.

     “The main component is to share the river system with fishing and recreation,” added Mormann.

     This involves removing a large portion of the dam (roughly 80 percent) and adding arching boulders across the channel. These boulders will allow paddlers, tubers, and boat passage during normal flow times. This will be done by lowering the elevation of the boulders directly above the scour hole and near the fishing access points. The scour hole will be developed and maintained by the river current, attracting and holding fish.

     The plans also call for the development of an ADA accessible sidewalk for fishing access, something Mormann said they do not currently have at the dam.

     Mormann said they would also leave “a fully intact portion (100 feet or so) of the dam” in place on the north side for historical interpretation, in addition to signage explaining the site’s history.

     At the Kitty Creek site, an arch rapids structure would also be constructed to protect the City of Monticello’s Kitty Creek sewer line crossing.

     This option comes at a cost of $1.7 million, of which grant funding has been secured for.

     Of the seven options, Option A is also the least expensive, ranging from $1.7 million to $5.3 million.

     Total funding to date (July 25), for both engineering and construction, comes in at $2,031,287.

     “This is not a new thing,” said Mormann. “Cities across the country are all looking at options of what to do with similar structures like this.”

     He said as the dam ages, they have to look at and consider the long-term costs of upkeep and maintenance of the dam.

     “The funding is not always there as issues occur,” explained Mormann.

     He said low-head dams like Mon Maq cause hydraulic issues such as blocking fish passage and increase flooding upstream.

     “That’s why the conservation board started looking at this,” he said. “They wanted to eliminate long-term costs.”

     He said Option A not only maintains and improves fishing at the dam site, but allows paddlers and boaters access of the entire stretch of the Maquoketa River.

     In terms of safety, Mormann said some of the grants Conservation was awarded were specifically because Mon Maq Dam poses a safety threat.

     Time is also of the essence with this project. Mormann said with some of the grants he was awarded, they have to be spent/used within a certain timeframe. The $250,000-plus Parks to People grant requires a construction contract awarded by June 30, 2018.

     “We have to make a decision soon,” he said. “The money may not be there forever.”

     Supervisor Lloyd Eaken asked whether removal of the dam would affect the water level upstream.

     “If the rock structures are put in, that would raise the water level slightly,” said Mormann.

     He said at Jellystone Campground, north of the dam, they would see the water level decrease by mere inches, not feet.

     “It’ll be a gradual change,” said Mormann.

     Mike Davies of Anamosa asked about the river’s impact on area wetlands if the dam were removed, as well as future costs associated with the dam.

     “Nothing has been spent on the dam since the ‘60s,” said Davies.

     Joy Claussen questioned the need for a dam project at all.

     “If you didn’t have the grants, would you even consider messing with the dam?” she asked.

     Economic Development Director Dusty Embree praised Mormann and the conservation board for being proactive with this project.

     “I don’t want my taxpayer dollars going to something we have the money for now,” she said.

     Others in the crowd said if this project is intended to increase traffic at the dam site, more parking options would need to be provided.

     Tom Osborne of Monticello said if allowing for ADA access is a problem that needs fixing, that could be remedied without taking out the dam.

     Osborne was also concerned with removing a piece of local history, a tourist attraction.

     “It could have a negative economic impact on Jones County and Monticello,” he said. “There’s growing public opposition.”


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