Supervisors vote to support Conservation in dam project

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Showing support for the appointed members of the Conservation Board, the Jones County Supervisors voted 4-1 to back Conservation in their endeavors as they move forward with their Mon Maq Dam project, which at this point entails partial removal. Supervisor Lloyd Eaken was opposed.

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach prefaced the discussion by informing the 20-some people in attendance that the board did not wish to rehash what has already been brought up concerning the dam. There have been numerous public meetings regarding the project before now.

     “We’ve all heard everything,” said Zirkelbach. “It’s gone through the papers and meetings. Only new information will be offered here today to discuss.”

     Each of the five supervisors also offered their thoughts concerning the Mon Maq Dam project.

     Supervisor Wayne Manternach said he supports Conservation concerning the process they’ve gone through to come to a conclusion.

     “It’s not an easy decision either way,” he said. “But their process has been top of the line. They heard discussion and put together the plans.”

     Eaken said he agrees, but finds it hard to support removing the dam when the majority of those he’s talked to or heard from are opposed.

     “I find myself between a rock and a hard place,” shared Eaken. “I support the Conservation Board; they’re all volunteers and I’m sure they’re catching a lot of heat. I support the work of the Conservation Board and what they’ve done and what they’re doing. They’ve done a lot of hard work and spent a lot of time on this. I’m not sure I would want that job.”

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder said he was not a county supervisor when the dam project started roughly 10 years ago. But after attending a number of Conservation meetings and other public forums about the project, he’s in full support of the work Conservation is doing.

     “The end result is dam removal,” he said. “I support that because, looking at the financial ramifications, if the dam should ever fail, the grant money will not be there.”

     Rohwedder said at the end of the day, Mon Maq Dam is county property, and if anything should happen to the dam, the residents of Jones County would have to pay for any damage associated with a levy breech.

     Rohwedder said he also felt the petition that has been circulating the county is inadequate. “I would be unwilling to sign it because it didn’t include the costs at all or funding that had been raised,” he said. “It totally eliminated financial information.”

     He added that he’s impressed with the newest proposal for the dam project, which would require minimal maintenance.

     “Brad (Mormann, Conservation director) presented a good case,” said Rohwedder.

     Supervisor Joe Oswald acknowledged both sides of the issue: those passionate about saving the dam and those who feel strongly that it should be removed.

     “This project has been going on for 10 years,” he said. “It’s not just something that happened in the last six months.”

     Oswald said if Conservation chose to leave the dam in place, they would then have to return all of the grants and contributions.

     “That would not go well for us in the future if we applied again,” explained Oswald. “That’d be a negative for us.”

     Zirkelbach seemed to echo Oswald’s sentiments. “There is money there to do the project under controlled circumstances.” He said if the dam were to fail and wash out, there would not necessarily be any funding to help with mitigation.

     He added that the current proposal calls for leaving a “decent stretch of the dam” in place, which Zirkelbach said should satisfy those fighting for the historical value.

     “There is money there to improve the area,” he said. “Look at how Central Park transpired. If we pass this opportunity up, you got what you got. That’s why I prefer to support the Conservation Board.”

     Ultimately, the final decision lies with the Conservation Board.

     “We’ll support any decision they make,” said Rohwedder.

     Tom Osborne of Monticello voiced that he felt of support sends the wrong message.

     “I encourage the Board of Supervisors not to make a motion and hold off until after the Aug. 23 public meeting,” he said.

     However, the board felt their support was warranted.

     Judy Skay of Monticello, a volunteer at Riverside Gardens, was worried about the water levels affecting the wetlands at the gardens.

     “The wetlands will change,” said Rohwedder, “but they’ll still be there, just in a different form.”

     Mormann said their engineer surveyed Riverside Gardens and the Monticello Golf Course pond to see just how the river levels would affect both sites.

     “There will be changes,” said Mormann. “Some wetlands will also be added.”

     Mike Davies of Anamosa said if the county had maintained the dam before now, this would not be an issue.

     “It’s wrong to deny the residents enjoyment of the dam because there is a concern it might fail in the future,” he said. “If you take it out, it’s gone forever.”

     Cindy Johnson of Monticello voiced her concerns as well as a lifelong resident. “I’d like to see the dam stay. Monticello will go downhill, stores will close.”

     Several in the crowd also asked to see cost estimates of what it would take to save and maintain the dam in its current state.

     Jerry Muller of Monticello felt the same. “The impact to the city will be tremendous.”

     The Conservation Board plans to vote on the project during their Thursday, Aug. 24 meeting at Central Park at 6:45 p.m.


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