Easter Lake is not what it used to be.
“It is definitely shallower than it was before,” says Paul Hancher of Des Moines, who fishes here 3-4 per week.
“since it was constructed in 1967," says Mike McGhee of the Iowa DNR, "we’ve lost about 50 acres of surface acreage to siltation and almost 24% of its volume.”
“It was especially evident with the low water levels this year and the drought," Hancher says, "you could really see it.”
Easter Lake is fed by south Des Moines tributaries like Yeader Creek which flow fast and heavy in rainy times, carrying sediment and pollutants into the lake. It's filling in and water quality has suffered.
“About 45-50% of the watershed is now urban," McGhee says, "and so we get lots of streets, lots of concrete, lots of storm water…boom! We get a big flush.”
According to a new engineering report supplied to the DNR, Polk County and the city of Des Moines, fixing the lake means fixing the creeks, first. Slow them down and reinforce their banks.
“As water flows down through Yeader Creek," says Mark Langgin of the Midwest Advocacy Group, "it washes away those banks in people’s back yards, that dirt ends up somewhere and right now, it’s ending up in the lake.”
Work could begin within six months…that is, if residents agree to fund it. The project is one of several covered by the Polk County Water and Land Legacy Bond. Measure A on the back of the November 6th ballot.
“Overall, over the course of the bonds," Langgin says, "the average cost per homeowner is going to be about 84 cents per month.”
The Easter Lake project would get a portion of the $50 million bond, with the city and DNR kicking in as well.
To fans of the lake, it makes sense.
“I’d definitely be interested in that, yes,” Hancher says.
“What we’re facing here," McGhee says, "is if we don’t do something, we’re going to diminish use, here, we’re gonna degrade the resource such that people will start shying away from coming to the lake to use it.”