Progress Being Made to Remove Dam in Downtown Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  After the presumed drowning death of a man in the Des Moines River on Monday, the topic of re-designing the downtown waterways has come up again.

The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is offering an update on the status of that project.

“We are making progress and that’s exciting,” said Teva Dawson, DMAMPO. “We are moving forward and bringing this plan to life.”

The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan was adopted by unanimous vote of the MPO Policy Committee in November of 2016. The plan provides the region a road-map for enhancing citizen experiences in and along the 150 miles of waterways in greater Des Moines. 

The first phase of the program will be to employ a consulting firm to assess cost and feasibility

“We’ve hired a national engineering firm that experience in dam mitigation,” said Dawson. “How can we make these safe for people? We know low head can be very dangerous.”

McLaughlin Whitewater is the hired firm. The company is very familiar with Iowa, as it took the consulting lead on the waterfront project in Iowa City at the Riverfront Park Improvements.

The Water Trails Engineering Study will examine the list of recommended projects more closely. The engineering study will determine the feasibility of the recommended projects and provide estimated costs of those projects.

With this information, local governments and funding partners can begin prioritizing projects and budgeting for their installation. One of the major goals of the project will be to possibly remove the dam downtown and open the area up for recreational use.

"The downtown team will have a lot of challenges. These things have been taken on in other communities including downtown Denver. They really seem to have a huge economic impact, in addition to making things safer in those downtown areas,” said Dawson.

There are not yet any estimates on potential cost of re-hauling downtown’s waterways, but that is what the consulting firm is looking into.