It took just minutes for Lake Delhi to drain when the Maquoketa River Dam burst back in 2010. But it’s taken years to move forward with a plan to repair the dam and refill the lake. Today it’s just a muddy field. Chris Stender’s marina sits on what used to be the bank of the lake.
“From this point forward just down the bank about three feet you had the lake that went all the way across,” he says. “You can see the waterline on the other side. It used to be a beautiful lake that a lot of people used.”
For a marina, no lake means no business.
Mike McGhee with the Department of Natural Resources says, “Of course the business has gone down substantially since the dam has gone away. When you have 900 places on the lake that typically have a boat or a lift, there’s usually something to do for most of the summer.”
The state legislature set aside $5 million to help rebuild the dam, a $20 million project. But the Department of Natural Resources is scrapping the locally developed plan, saying Lake Delhi officials are not doing enough to ensure public access to the lake. The DNR wants to see a beach, public parking and boat ramps.
McGhee says, “We’d like to see that. It’s a narrow corridor and it’s primarily surrounded by private homes and public access is very limited. So we’re suggesting some alternatives that would increase public access to that system.”
Chris Stender says, “There’s two public ramps on this lake. Turtle Creek Park and Baily’s Ford Park. They’ve been public boat ramps for years. Anybody can put a boat in any time and that’s not gonna change. Restrooms… everything is there that they’re asking for.”
The DNR also wants to improve water quality by possibly requiring improvements to septic and well systems along the lake.
Folks at Lake Delhi wonder whether all of these improvements will cost more than the $5 million dollars they’re asking for to repair the dam. They believe the lake project will get done eventually, they just hope they don’t drown in a sea of red tape first.